Queensland is set to become the temporary home of the Australian Football League (AFL) and has targeted hosting rights to the Grand Final in return, as the Aussie rules competition exits its heartland of Victoria amid the escalating COVID-19 situation in the state.
The AFL resumed its 2020 season on June 11, 81 days after it was suspended due to the pandemic, but is now having to deal with how its Victorian teams play their games, with concerns about the situation in New South Wales as well.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today (Wednesday) confirmed an approach for more AFL teams to temporarily relocate to Queensland and stay for the remainder of the season. The League has so far completed six rounds of a reduced 17-game season, with an eight-team finals series still to come. The AFL has confirmed fixtures for rounds seven and eight, but has yet to commit beyond that.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said: “Understanding the ongoing situation with COVID-19 in Victoria, Victorian teams will be based out of Queensland for up to 10 weeks as we aim to get the majority of the season complete in that timeframe.
“Victorian teams based in Queensland that are fixtured to travel interstate to play, will travel to their game and then return back Queensland. Melbourne, which is currently based in NSW, will also move to Queensland next week.
“We will also set up a transition hub in Queensland for players from those Victorian clubs who didn’t take full playing lists, and the AFL will also accommodate families who did not initially go up to the hubs with clubs. If families and loved ones want to join their partners in Queensland, we will facilitate this.
“We need to deal with the uncertainty, and this is a clear plan that makes Queensland the base for our competition and provides greater certainty for everyone.”
The announcement came with confirmation Queensland had recorded no new COVID cases overnight and has had no cases of community transfer since May. Palaszczuk said: “I stress none of these measures can happen without strict quarantine protocols and the COVID management plan that has allowed the AFL season to proceed.
“The health of Queenslanders comes first. But this is a way we can further help Victoria. AFL is more than a sport in Victoria. I’m sure Victorians would rather the season went ahead in Queensland than not have a season at all.”
Teams already in Queensland include: St Kilda, Richmond, North Melbourne, Essendon, Western Bulldogs and Carlton. All other Victorian-based teams will eventually be temporarily relocated to Queensland for the remainder of the home and away season with some teams spending time out of Queensland while completing games in other states such as Western Australia.
The AFL is in the process of booking accommodation for hundreds of players and officials, with Palaszczuk stating this will boost the Queensland economy. “Our economic response is only possible because of our health response and for that I thank each and every Queenslander,” she said.
The 2020 Grand Final currently remains scheduled for October 24 at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). However, Palaszczuk added: “If the season is largely played in Queensland then I think it’s only fair we also host the Grand Final.”
Image: Annastacia Palaszczuk