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AFL confirms June 11 return with SA and WA clubs on Gold Coast

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The 2020 AFL Premiership season will resume on June 11, league chief executive Gillon McLachlan confirmed in a press conference on Friday.

Clubs will return to training on Monday, May 18 in groups of up to eight players, with full-contact practice slated to resume the following week.

All players and officials will undergo coronavirus testing at least 24 hours before each training session, while umpires and matchday staff will also be tested in the lead-up to each gameday.

Adelaide, Fremantle, Port Adelaide and West Coast will relocate to Queensland – at the AFL’s expense – and play a series of matches in a six-team group that also includes the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns.

Strict quarantine measures in South Australia mean the Crows and Power will have to arrive on the Gold Coast by May 25 in order to start full-contact training at the same time as the rest of the competition.

The West Australian government has granted training exemptions for the Dockers and Eagles, so they may not have to relocate until the week leading up to the June 11 restart.

The fixture for the first four weeks of the restructured season is due to be released within the next 10 days, with the remainder of the draw to be revealed in blocks of four to six weeks.

The campaign will conclude with a four-week finals series as usual, although organisers are yet to lock in a date for the 2020 AFL Grand Final.

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“Today is a significant step in getting footy back for everyone – our fans, our clubs, players, coaches, officials and staff, our broadcast and corporate partners and club partners and all who love the game,” McLachlan said.

“We know as this situation continues to evolve, we have to remain agile and flexible to be able to adapt where necessary while ensuring we continue to prioritise the health and welfare of our players, staff and the wider community and – importantly – don’t place any burden on the public health system.

“We have developed our model as the best option for returning to play for both players and officials and the general public and have done so following extensive consultation, including with the Federal, State and Territory Governments and Chief Health Officers.”

The league, in conjunction with the AFL Players Association, is working on a set of sanctions for any players, coaches and officials caught breaching health and safety protocols.

Families situated within the quarantine hubs will be subject to the same testing and policies as club personnel.

“They’ll be graded, in the drafts I’ve seen there’s intentional, reckless and careless and there will be specific examples of guide sanctions,” McLachlan said.

“Each household will be subjected to risk.

“We’ll be really tough on that now it’s been established that the protocols are part of the rules and we’ll be as transparent as we can about the accountability of those.”

The AFL is still mulling over a few potential rule changes, including the introduction of a six-man interchange bench.

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