May 15, 2020 / 7:36 AM / 18 days ago

Australian Football League to restart June 11, four clubs moving to Gold Coast

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian Football League season will resume on June 11, with players returning to training from Monday and four clubs moving to the Gold Coast due to tighter COVID-19 restrictions in their home states, Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said.

The Australian Rules top flight, the country’s most popular winter sports league, was suspended in March after one round of the season when domestic travel curbs to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak made the competition untenable.

All players and staff would be tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to their clubs and would be under strict protocols that include “risk” inspections of their homes and social distancing protocols for their family members.

“Each household will be subjected to risk,” McLachlan told a media conference at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday.

“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.

“This will also apply for umpires and key matchday staff once the season resumes.”

McLachlan said teams would have a week of non-contact training before full contact practice from May 25.

The 18-team AFL’s resumption has been complicated by authorities in southern states declining to give clubs exemptions from social restrictions and quarantine requirements.

McLachlan said four clubs from South Australia and Western Australia would move north to hubs on the Gold Coast in Queensland to prepare for the restart due to restrictions on training in their home states.

The AFL also confirmed its playoffs series would be preserved in its traditional four-week format.

The fixture for the first four weeks of the rebooted season will be released within 10 days, the league added.

Australia, which has reported 98 deaths and about 7,000 COVID-19 cases, has begun to loosen social distancing restrictions after infection rates plunged.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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