AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has conceded that the competition’s two NSW-based teams, Sydney and the GWS Giants, will be on the road for the remainder of the year.
The NSW government announced 97 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, extending the current Greater Sydney lockdown by a further two weeks, leaving the prospect of the two teams heading home highly unlikely.
McLachlan said the families of the two teams were the AFL’s “priority” and revealed that the league is working with three state governments to reunite players with their families.
“We’re in discussion with the Victorian, the Queensland and the NT governments and we’re working through how it might look in each state,” he said.
“We’re having productive conversations and we’ll be talking to the clubs about what each of the options look like tomorrow and then obviously in concert with them, talking to families.
“[The number of family members allowed] will depend on the options and the circumstances. There are two clubs whose families are our priority now as it’s played out over the last few days.
“We had all the partners and others in various forms in the hubs last year and we’ve tried to avoid getting there this year and we’ve done reasonably successfully having multiple teams on the road for two-to-three weeks.
“Unfortunately now in Sydney it looks like we’re going to have to go with a different approach. I hope people understand that we’ve been trying to mitigate the impact with these short surges, but unfortunately we’ve been outrun a bit in Sydney.”
The MCG was named as an exposure site after a positive case attended the Carlton-Geelong match on Saturday on level two of the MCC members’ reserve, but McLachlan said there was no indication that any club officials, players staff or family members were exposed.
Despite Victoria announcing eight new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, McLachlan said he did not know whether crowd numbers at this weekend’s fixtures would be altered.
“I don’t have any updates of any other changes in Victoria this weekend, whether it’s in crowds or games or others, the government is clearly working through it,” he said.
“They are watching but we have no advice of any planned changes but as we know things change on a day-to-day basis or an hourly basis.
“We’re going to the football this weekend as it stands today. We’ll deal with whatever changes come. That’s what we’ve been doing for 18 months. Change and challenges continue to come.”
Players from all Victorian-based clubs will be tested as “an abundance of caution” after the announcement of Wednesday’s new cases, with the league to also review protocols on its players.
McLachlan stressed that cases in each state were a concern to the AFL, adding that having crowds at fixtures remained a priority.
“I am worried about every case that comes up in every state in the country all of the time,” he said.
“The crowds, if we can get people to go to the football, is clearly the priority, but I’m accepting the environment is changing and that there’s going to be challenges through to the end of the year.
“We’ve had four rounds this season in the men’s and I think four in the women’s season that weren’t impacted by COVID this year. We are a mass-gathering, weekly, multiple-state, cross-border business.”