National Cabinet paves way for AFL return
THE National Cabinet has announced 15 principles required for professional and community sport to continue, providing a critical guideline for the AFL's resumption.
Following a National Cabinet meeting on the coronavirus crisis, Australia's Minister for Youth and Sport Richard Colbeck revealed the steps needed for sport and recreational activities to resume amid the COVID-19 environment.
The 2020 season's recommencement can now be confidently planned by the AFL, while consulting state governments and medical health authorities.
The National Cabinet agreed sport and recreation activities play a "significant role" in Australia's emergence from the coronavirus epidemic, but need to ensure sport can return "without compromising the health of individuals or the community".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also spoke positively about Australia's progress with battling the coronavirus, hinting lockdown restriction could be lifted earlier than anticipated.
However, Morrison also confirmed the National Cabinet has not cleared the AFL to restart, saying the full power of approval for resumption rests with the state governments.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan believes the improving COVID-19 situation across the country will allow for the season to restart in easier circumstances. He also believes the prospect of players spending 20 weeks in isolation hubs has been overblown.
"In the most extreme scenario, in various forms, that's (20 weeks in hubs) an option but clearly in the same framework there's the possibility borders are being open for fly in, fly out," McLachlan said.
"If we end up having to be in high-performance hubs for a period of time, all the feedback and all the consideration we'll be taken into account and we'll work through it.
"When people are at home and people are isolated and there's not much else on you get big headlines, but we'll work through it."
McLachlan says whatever situation evolves, the AFL will return to play this year.
"The players genuinely want to play. There are individual circumstances coming out that are quite normal and natural," he said.
"I feel very confident we'll get there with a return-to-play set of protocols and the players are going to feel safe to play and their personal circumstances will able to be managed.
"This is going to be tough and to do their jobs, and to get this game away, people are going to have to make sacrifices."
Players Association chief Paul Marsh also remains optimistic the AFL's doomsday scenario of players won't come to pass.
"We all understand that if the government restrictions change, and that could happen as early as today, then we'll be looking at other potential options," Marsh said on Friday morning.
NATIONAL PRINCIPLES FOR THE RESUMPTION OF SPORT AND RECREATION ACTIVITIES
1. Resumption of sport and recreation activities can contribute many health, economic, social and cultural benefits to Australian society emerging from the COVID-19 environment.
2. Resumption of sport and recreation activities should not compromise the health of individuals or the community.
3. Resumption of sport and recreation activities will be based on objective health information to ensure they are conducted safely and do not risk increased COVID-19 local transmission rates.
4. All decisions about resumption of sport and recreation activities must take place with careful reference to these National Principles following close consultation with Federal, State/Territory and/or Local Public Health Authorities, as relevant.
5. The AIS 'Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment' provides a guide for the reintroduction of sport and recreation in Australia, including high performance sport. The AIS Framework incorporates consideration of the differences between contact and non-contact sport and indoor and outdoor activity. Whilst the three phases A, B and C of the AIS Framework provide a general guide, individual jurisdictions may provide guidance on the timing of introduction of various levels of sport participation with regard to local epidemiology, risk mitigation strategies and public health capacity.
6. International evidence to date is suggestive that outdoor activities are a lower risk setting for COVID-19 transmission. There are no good data on risks of indoor sporting activity but, at this time, the risk is assumed to be greater than for outdoor sporting activity, even with similar mitigation steps taken.
7. All individuals who participate in, and contribute to, sport and recreation will be considered in resumption plans, including those at the high performance/professional level, those at the community competitive level, and those who wish to enjoy passive (non-contact) individual sports and recreation.
8. Resumption of community sport and recreation activity should take place in a staged fashion with an initial phase of small group (<10) activities in a non-contact fashion, prior to moving on to a subsequent phase of large group (>10) activities including full contact training/competition in sport. Individual jurisdictions will determine progression through these phases, taking account of local epidemiology, risk mitigation strategies and public health capability.
a. This includes the resumption of children's outdoor sport with strict physical distancing measures for non-sporting attendees such as parents.
b. This includes the resumption of outdoor recreational activities including (but not limited to) outdoor-based personal training and boot camps, golf, fishing, bush-walking, swimming, etc.
9. Significantly enhanced risk mitigation (including avoidance and physical distancing) must be applied to all indoor activities associated with outdoor sporting codes (e.g. club rooms, training facilities, gymnasia and the like).
10. For high performance and professional sporting organisations, the regime underpinned in the AIS Framework is considered a minimum baseline standard required to be met before the resumption of training and match play, noting most sports and participants are currently operating at level A of the AIS Framework.
11. If sporting organisations are seeking specific exemptions in order to recommence activity, particularly with regard to competitions, they are required to engage with, and where necessary seek approvals from, the respective State/Territory and/or Local Public Health Authorities regarding additional measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
12. At all times sport and recreation organisations must respond to the directives of Public Health Authorities. Localised outbreaks may require sporting organisations to again restrict activity and those organisations must be ready to respond accordingly. The detection of a positive COVID-19 case in a sporting or recreation club or organisation will result in a standard public health response, which could include quarantine of a whole team or large group, and close contacts, for the required period.
13. The risks associated with large gatherings are such that, for the foreseeable future, elite sports, if recommenced, should do so in a spectator-free environment with the minimum support staff available to support the competition. Community sport and recreation activities should limit those present to the minimum required to support the participants (e.g. one parent or carer per child if necessary).
14. The sporting environment (training and competition venues) should be assessed to ensure precautions are taken to minimise risk to those participating in sport and those attending sporting events as spectators (where and when permissible).
15. The safety and wellbeing of the Australian community will be the priority in any further and specific decisions about the resumption of sport, which will be considered by the COVID-19 Sports and Health Committee.
- with AAP