AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan. Picture: AAP Images
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan. Picture: AAP Images

AFL mandate: Every player to take COVID-19 test

EVERY AFL player will be tested for coronavirus by this Friday, with clubs on Tuesday notified of the extent of heavy football department spending cuts.

With an eye to resuming training on Monday, the league has mandated that every player undergo screening for the virus with results to be confirmed by the end of the week.

The AFL continues to consult with state governments in an effort to win exemptions from strict coronavirus measures that prevent group training sessions across the country.

Victoria is the only state to provide an exemption to AFL teams, while it is expected that NSW and Queensland would follow suit after granting the same ability to NRL teams in recent weeks.

Clubs have also been told that they must cut football departments to just 24 staff - which must include a doctor, player welfare official and psychologist - and for costs to be cut by 40 per cent.

A number of clubs are meeting in relation to the news on Tuesday afternoon.

The cuts have not been received well at some clubs, with one official questioning whether "half the spend will result in half the product".

Clubs have also been heavily warned that any coronavirus rule breaks - such as that committed by the Adelaide Crows last week - would not be received well as the league desperately attempts to keep governments on side in an effort to resume the competition as smoothly as possible.

Around 80 per cent of club and league staff have been stood down until May 31, with concern at clubs that a significant number of those staff will not return.

Richmond chief Brendon Gale admitted on Monday night that the cuts were "something we're a little concerned with".

"We've expressed our concerns to the AFL and the AFL have got some significant and quite urgent financial challenges to deal with," Gale told Channel 7.

"Controlling costs is an appropriate response, but it's about balance, and we wouldn't want to compromise our ability to bring in talent, to develop talent, to develop teams, but ultimately to grow the game.

"The talent we've borne in recent years … us and other clubs have gone out on a limb to nurture that talent, some of those players have great box office appeal. And we don't want to risk those really high-talent outcomes and the growth of the game, as well.

"That talent and I guess the diversity of our talent is a great growth story for our club and the whole code. We wouldn't want to put that at risk."

Clubs will have to nominate a designated coronavirus "compliance officer" who will be responsible for ensuring education, leadership and compliance with return to play protocols.

The protocols remain the same as they have been in recent weeks, and include clubs having to remain completely closed and all coaching sessions and training programs to be provided remotely and only be acted upon in the presence of one other person.

Further protocols are still being finalised for when training begins, which is hoped to be on Monday.

Players have also been told that they will be unable to play any second-tier games this season in an effort to reduce the risk of further transmission or players having contact with individuals who may not be undertaking the same isolation measures.

The league is exploring ways that players not selected in games could still get match practice, including "scratch match" setups with different clubs.

In the memo to clubs, AFL general Counsel Andrew Dillon said the competition "must prioritise the health and safety of our players, club staff and the community".

"This necessarily means minimising, wherever possible, person-to-person contact; the adoption of a rigorous testing regime; and strict compliance with the health and safety protocols," he said.

"We must take a prudent approach to football department expenditure which recognises that a significant level of industry revenue has already been lost and there is further material risk to our financial position both this season and in future years."

Meanwhile, clubs have been told that only necessary staff be in contact with players and attend the club, with officials now in the process of determining a skeleton staff that would fit that category.

Top brass at clubs is not expected to be deemed "necessary" to football operations, and could continue working remotely even when football begins.



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