MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 22: AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan speaks to the media during an AFL press conference at AFL House on March 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 22: AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan speaks to the media during an AFL press conference at AFL House on March 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

18 clubs, one state: AFL’s radical restart plan

Victoria could house all 18 clubs in one mega hub under a radical AFL plan to restart the season.

Games would be split between the MCG, Marvel Stadium and GMHBA Stadium as up to 500 players and officials relocate to Victoria for an extended period.

Suburban grounds with TV broadcast facilities such as Moorabbin, Ikon Park and Whitten Oval would also enter the frame with every game to be staged in football heartland.

The AFL expects fans to be locked out of games for the rest of the season and the MCG has already put its hand up to host as many as six ghost games per week.

It has emerged as a best-case scenario to bring every club to one place, however the logistical nightmare means the AFL is considering running multiple hubs

That could see Adelaide, Perth, Sydney or Queensland hubs run simultaneously with Melbourne.

Players in a hub would be subject to coronavirus testing as often as twice a week.

"We've got a few options in front of us, they range from one hub with 18 teams together, playing at two or three stadiums for a season," fixture boss Travis Auld said.

Dustin Martin and Tom Lynch celebrate a Richmond goal in Round 1 at the MCG.
Dustin Martin and Tom Lynch celebrate a Richmond goal in Round 1 at the MCG.

 

"Then there's an opportunity to have up to three hubs, say six teams in each hub located in different states playing at traditional home-and-away venues.

"It may mean we play games five, six, seven days a week. A lot of night games, a lot of midweek games (and) one round might blend into another."

The development is a potentially huge coup for Victoria as it looks to help lift spirits across the country.

Having 18 clubs in Victoria would also require hotels, transport and food services in a mini-boom for the local economy.

Melbourne looms as the best option because of its relaxed state borders and bulk training facilities, whereas the key stumbling block to multiple hubs is stricter border restrictions elsewhere.

 

 

Football's restart plan would face significant hurdles if players were confined to hotel rooms for 14 days every time they crossed the country.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan is determined to ensure that once the next game is played there are no more breaks until the Grand Final has been completed.

The league wants borders unlocked so that players can train and play as soon as they hit the ground.

Western Australia has its borders locked from everyone and the AFL is working feverishly to secure special exemptions.

St Kilda and North Melborne clash at the AFL-owned Marvel Stadium in Round 1.
St Kilda and North Melborne clash at the AFL-owned Marvel Stadium in Round 1.

The AFL has discussed a Perth hub with the WA government and Perth Stadium, which are both keen to host games.

But WA premier Mark McGowan said on Wednesday: "We currently have people come in for work purposes and have to isolate in a hotel for two weeks before they go to work".

The WACA Ground would also be used, while the hotels and stretches of parkland between the venues fits the league's quarantine model.

Queensland is a chance, given it has Metricon Stadium and the Gabba.

Clubs would take control of Gold Coast's Royal Pines, which boasts gyms, pools, tennis courts and a golf course, and would stay at Accor Hotels in Brisbane.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, who is on the AFL's COVID-19 war cabinet, said the AFL was planning hubs all around the country.

Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium would host matches under the plan to have 18 teams play in Victoria.
Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium would host matches under the plan to have 18 teams play in Victoria.
 

"They're going to plan to do it everywhere, so that when the time comes they can do it somewhere." McGuire said on Triple M.

Auld said the AFL was "very aware of our place in society … we don't want to be a distraction and certainly not a burden on the health system".

Auld said players were getting their heads around the hub concept after initial turbulence.

The league's 18 football managers expect to find out more at today's weekly dial-in meeting with AFL operations manager Steve Hocking.

Club bosses are becoming increasingly optimistic of playing in either late June or July.

League boss Gillon McLachlan had promised fans that a restart date would be revealed by the end of next week.

But fans might now have to wait until early May as AFL heavyweights seek the strong support of all state governments and chief medical officers.

In any case, players are accepting they will have to be prepared to head interstate for up to a month at a time to play as many as six games in the block to restart the season.

Family members including partners and children could also be allowed to stay with players.

Gillon McLachlan has pledged to reveal the AFL’s planned start date by the end of April.
Gillon McLachlan has pledged to reveal the AFL’s planned start date by the end of April.

Players are also likely to be subject to strict quarantine protocols for as long the season lasts.

They include limiting their movements from their home or accommodation to training and game venues.

It has also been raised that teams may be forced to train separately in small groups.

Under one scenario, clubs could train once a week as a team, and conduct the rest of their sessions in divisional groups, such as defenders, midfielders and forwards.

That way, any player infected with the coronavirus would theoretically have less exposure to teammates throughout the week, helping safeguard the whole team from going down.

Players have been urged not to comment publicly on the hub concept.

Originally published as 18 clubs, one state: AFL's radical restart plan



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