The AFL’s hopes of restarting the 2020 season on June 11 could be under threat after South Australian health and police reportedly refused to grant Adelaide and Port Adelaide travel and training exemptions.
Adelaide and Port Adelaide will likely have to join West Coast and Fremantle in relocating to the eastern seaboard after SA officials said AFL clubs would not be able to bypass a 14-day quarantine period to fly in and out of the state for matches.
News Corp Australia reported SA chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier and Commissioner of SA Police Grant Stevens rejected an AFL request for exemptions in a letter to AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.
“On public health advice, the committee has resolved that any economic and social benefits to be gained by allowing modification or exemptions to SA quarantine requirements for AFL players and staff were not outweighed by the public health risk,” the letter said.
Any relocation for the South Australian teams would have to be prompt to keep a planned season restart on track, as AFL clubs have also been denied exemptions that would allow them to commence full contact training.
South Australia’s rules only allow for non-contact training in groups of 10 until at least June 8 – just three days before the proposed season restart.
“The committee also agreed that the restrictions on training for sport in South Australia should apply equally to the AFL,” the letter said.
An announcement on return to train and play dates is expected on Thursday or Friday.
South East Queensland shapes as a potential temporary home for West Coast and Fremantle, given they appear unlikely to secure state government quarantine exemptions.
The Eagles and Fremantle are considering a temporary move to the Gold Coast to train, then play if WA borders remain shut for an extended period of time.
Players across the league are restricted to training in pairs until all 18 clubs have permission to commence full-contact training.
Victorian clubs have a state government exemption to return to full training while clubs in NSW and Queensland are certain to receive allowances in line with those granted to their NRL counterparts.
The AFL ordered all players and staff to undergo coronavirus tests this week, with many Victorian-based groups heading to a drive-through clinic at Marvel Stadium on Wednesday.
Players also met with AFL Players’ Association boss Paul Marsh.
Meanwhile, any hopes Hawthorn and North Melbourne had of hosting games in Tasmania this year appear to be fading due to the reluctance of the state’s government.
“My view is that we simply won’t be able to accommodate the AFL under our current border restrictions,” Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein told reporters.
“I don’t think any Tasmanian would want me to risk that.”
As part of strict return-to-play rules, players have been banned from featuring in their affiliated second-tier competitions like the VFL, SANFL and WAFL.
The AFL is considering allowing players not selected for games to participate in scratch matches against other AFL clubs in a controlled environment.
Meanwhile, clubs have been told to reduce football department spending by 40 per cent, while staff numbers will be capped at 24 and must include a doctor, player development manager and psychologist.
AFL Coaches Association chief executive Mark Brayshaw said all coaches had expressed to him their concerns about the size of the cuts if they become permanent.