Quarantine hubs are the AFL’s best shot at completing the 2020 premiership season without further coronavirus shutdowns, according to Victoria’s Minister for Sport Martin Pakula.
Creating hubs, where teams are separated into three groups and isolated in different states to limit their exposure to COVID-19, is one of the scenarios the league is considering as it plots a way out of the financially crippling shutdown.
The minister was asked about the concept of isolation hubs across all sports on Wednesday and gave the idea his backing.
“It might well be that, even in an environment where sport is able to recommence, [quarantine hubs] might be the only practical way to have confidence to get through a season without having to stop and start,” Pakula told SEN radio.
“If, for example, a code thought it had enough runway to run for a few weeks and then, if they get a positive [test], to stop again and take a few weeks off then start again then maybe they don’t have to go down that road.
“If, on the other hand, they took a view that they wanted to have a high degree of confidence that once they were underway they could get through without having to stop and start then [hubs] might be a practical objective.”
Senior figures in the industry such as Port Adelaide chairman David Koch and Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell have expressed cautious optimism the season could restart in July.
The minister said that he has had preliminary talks with the AFL about the status of the season, but has not discussed timelines for a return to playing.
He said there is no clear signpost for sporting codes to return to the field, with no change to current measures expected while Victoria’s state of emergency, which has been extended to May 11, remains in place.
“I think when you start to see some of the current restrictions relax – that will be gradual and small steps at the outset – then there will be an opportunity for sport to talk about whether or not they can recommence in some form or other,” he said.
“And it depends on the form that they’re talking about.
“If a code wanted to just go back to everything [they did] before, in the absence of crowds, but everything else – playing in multiple different venues, flying all over the country every week – that’s probably a different conversation to one about having some teams quarantined in various locations and keeping movement to a minimum.
“Sport has to first come to the conclusion about how they’d like to reboot and then we can probably have a conversation with them about whether their idea is workable.”