THROUGHOUT the COVID-19 pandemic the AFL has maintained constant contact with health and government authorities.
The advice we have received is that football, in the timings that government is allowing its return, will represent no greater risk to community health than other modes of life that are being gradually being reopened, including bars, restaurants, night clubs and eventually most workplaces.
This is provided clubs and the community maintain a standard of hygiene and safety that is incumbent upon us all.
I attended the meeting of club presidents and delegates of the Sunraysia Football Netball League on Thursday evening and advised the clubs that AFL Victoria is a sporting body with participation objectives.
Our role, now that it is shortly to be considered safe to return to play, is to make football available to those who wish to play it.
There are several AFL sanctioned competitions we are seeing return.
The VFL, VFLW and NAB League will be back in August while our Richmond NGA Academies will return in July.
Auskick, while free to go back under the existing training protocol, will also be sanctioned for those centres that have more than the maximum participants under the current rules.
Clearly, the greatest vehicle for participation is the SFNL as it captures the most participants in the region, is an established brand and is an existing framework that can get going immediately.
It is obvious the league have our full support should they wish to get a competition up and going in 2020.
Clubs in Victoria have been unanimous in their sentiment that several boxes would need to be ticked to make a season viable.
Crowds needed to be permitted, clubs would need to be able to find the players if they had lost any and the protocols needed to be reasonable and clear.
The recent Andrews Government announcements on crowds has been really promising and with recent announcements in New South Wales and Queensland, which can start hosting crowds well in excess of the numbers we’d expect at community football level, we anticipate more favourable announcements in Victoria could soon follow.
There are several mechanisms to help assist the SFNL clubs in coming back.
One is a permit made available to players of clubs in recess to help allow them to play football.
A player could cross from one club to another on a temporary basis and then automatically revert to their club of origin on October 31.
Players who use this permit would still be subject to the existing points system.
It was decided there would be no change to a club’s existing points in order to keep them from permitting star footballers and playing them ahead of locals in the seniors.
So, there are options for teams who are looking to enter a team in a sanctioned competition.
AFL Victoria is in the process of having its return-to-play protocols finalised with the relevant authorities.
This will provide the framework under which play can return and will detail the responsibilities on players and club volunteers.
I believe this protocol will be released soon with revised return to play and train ing for under-18 competitions to be out before Monday.
Given that training has already been permitted to return, and some clubs have taken the opportunity to do so, I would like to acknowledge the work of the current football clubs which have conducted training sessions in accordance with the existing protocol.
The Imperials Football Club was outstanding in the way they conducted their training register, which is a credit to their dedicated volunteers.
Football will come back in 2020 in some form, but we, as a community, can decide in what format.
Let’s make it happen.