By Nick Creely
AFL Outer East is expected to release its return to play roadmap to all clubs on 2 June, with the league expected to announce a target date as well as many more key measures to get its season up and running in 2020.
With AFL Outer East aiming to potentially get a reduced season started from late-July or early August, region general manager Aaron Bailey advised clubs of the plans on Wednesday evening, with the league boss telling the Gazette that providing that level of clarity was vital as clubs start preparing for training on the same night of the announcement.
“It’s important for us to provide clarity about when to come back – we’re going to address what we’ll need to get to in order to get back, and then it can allow footballers and netballers to train,” he said.
“If we don’t meet these targets, then we can work through it and we’ll make a joint decision, and we think the best approach is to have a systematic approach, and start after the worst part of winter.
“That’s the indication of our surveys, they (the clubs) want to try and get a season up.
“We’ll work towards a date, and if we don’t meet that, we’ll look at some alternative options.
“But we’re going to provide one date, not change or push it back – we’ll do everything we can, and give people real assurity towards what we’re working towards, but we have to work through it
“It’s important that all leagues make an informed decision that’s best for their members and competition.”
With the target return date likely for late July/early August, allowing enough time to get in enough home-and-away games and finals with cricket expected to be pushed back to late October, Bailey said that the league will continue to work closely with the clubs to ensure that it will be both financially viable, as well as not providing any additional health risks to its clubs.
“We won’t do it at the risk of any clubs – that’s the key message we had at the meeting on Wednesday night with the clubs,” he said.
“And that way we can start to get our members and people back in – if we feel a return isn’t possible, we’ll make that decision with the clubs.
“We’re hoping the restrictions are lifted – but we’ve got two months and we hope we can be in a good space.
“I’d regret calling it off now knowing we could have got it going.”
With the issues of crowds and the limits on gatherings expected to stay in place for many months to come, Bailey reiterated the need to make an informed decision with all the clubs and members.
“There’s some key measurables to get back, one will be the ability to get crowds, sale of food and beverage, but the health and safety aspect has to be considered, and the ability for volunteers to be able to sustain this is vital, and it has to be feasible,” he said.
“The last factor is around what the crowd’s going to look like, and we’ll need to make an assessment based on that model, and over the next three months, we’ll work towards a target.”
Bailey said that, however, for all the different competitions under AFL Outer East governance, they will be treated on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.
“The measure of return will be different,” he said.
“Football could be different to netball, certainly junior netball and women’s football.
“It’ll be a case by case basis, but it’s got to be viable for clubs, and we need to tick off the safety protocols.”