Revealed: The extreme measures to bring AFL back
The AFL will foot the multimillion-dollar bill for its quarantine hubs this year in a season that could culminate in an 18-team "lightning carnival" to finish the home-and-away season.
The league is adamant that despite the easing of some community restrictions the only way to start the season in June or July will be those hubs with significant quarantine measures.
The Herald Sun understands clubs have been told players will be given permission to house their families in hubs alongside them in special circumstances.
The league is warming to the idea of two hubs of nine teams rather than three.
The league wrote to club presidents on Monday night with a general update ahead of Friday's meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
The AFL will present its detailed plans to that committee in the hope they will be given official approval.
That committee could give guidance or even throw up suggestions to the AFL on its return to play, with the national cabinet expected to start easing coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, May 10.
That will allow the league to present its proposal to clubs on May 11.
Players could have temperature tests daily and be subjected to coronavirus tests multiple times per week to ensure they are free of the virus and able to play.
The AFL does not believe states will have eased 14-day quarantine periods after state border crossings, which means the hubs will be vital to at least some home-and-away football this year.
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The AFL had hoped the prospect of state governments tipping in to help financially might ease the burden of more than 800 footballers being housed in Olympic-style villages.
But as WA premier Mark McGowan said on Sunday, states have many priorities ahead of funding AFL clubs: "I'm not going to put taxpayers' money into that when we have all these other priorities with our health system and education. We've had huge declines in revenue across the board."
One option that has emerged in recent days is hubs being located in universities with elite facilities and accommodation.
Brisbane has been approached by Bond University to house a hub, with the Lions having had an excellent experience at its Tasmanian Camp at the University of Tasmania.
The odds of the AFL finishing the season with 18 clubs in Melbourne continue to shorten to finish the home-and-away season.
However hubs are set up, clubs will be left with multiple teams they need to play to finish off the home-and-away season.
It means there is a real prospect those 18 clubs would descend upon Melbourne to play a series of fixtures that finish off the 17-game home-and-away year.
The 18-team Melbourne hub would be needed if border restrictions are not relaxed but McLachlan told clubs in the update he was hopeful the league might return to a normal fixture at some stage.
McLachlan said he had a date in mind to start the season again.
"We still have a date in mind for the resumption of play but - again - we are working closely with the government and the chief medical health officers through this period and we will await for their sign-off before formalising the date."
Coronavirus cabinet member Jeff Kennett told the Herald Sun on Monday night the league was showing great judgment in not rushing a return.
"They are looking at all options, which is what they should do. We won't start until we get a sign-off from the medicos and politicians, whether that's one hub or three. We are going to manage the cost structure, whatever that is.
"If we go into a model that is apart from the norm, the AFL would normally pick up the flights and they would continue to do that, so that will be a cost to the AFL.
"I have got to say observing what they are doing, they are doing it very thoroughly. It is extraordinarily complicated and there are so many imponderables which makes the whole challenge extraordinarily difficult."
Originally published as Revealed: The extreme measures to bring footy back