Six Victorian-based AFL clubs will relocate to Queensland, potentially for the remainder of the 2020 season, but for at least the next 32 days, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said on Friday.
St Kilda, North Melbourne, Essendon, Western Bulldogs, Richmond and Carlton will all join the two South Australian and two Western Australian clubs in a hub in Queensland, a move which will assist the AFL in continuing to run the competition, while Geelong, Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Collingwood and Hawthorn will be in Sydney for the next two weeks.
The two Sydney-based teams will play their Round 6 matches in Queensland before returning home in Round 7.
Rounds 6 and 7: pic.twitter.com/d1afBmgv9p— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshMedia) July 3, 2020
Speaking to the press, McLachlan said it was a "major logistical exercise" to get players, staff, umpires and broadcasters to agree to the move, which will allow the AFL season to continue unimpeded.
"We've talked about being flexible and agile. Part of the revised fixture is to temporarily move all Victorian teams out for about 32 days. By the end of Monday, all 10 clubs will have moved out of Victoria for the next block of matches," he said.
"The [Victorian] government is looking to get this virus under control, in five weeks we will know a lot more. If all the teams come back as planned, I don't think we will need a bye."
He added that it would be "up to clubs" as to whether families and partners of players will be allowed to travel with the teams.
The Victorian clubs are expected to depart the state by Monday, with some potentially leaving earlier. The fixtures for Rounds 6 and 7 have already been revised, with clubs set to play out of the Gabba and Metricon Stadium -- as well as in Sydney -- for the forseeable future.
In an earlier statement, McLachlan said the decision to move clubs was made with "the health and safety of our people and the wider community" in mind.
"I have said on a number of occasions that this would be a season of challenges. And that the one certainty is that before we completed the 2020 Toyota AFL premiership season there would be more unique challenges along the way," he said.
"I want to thank the governments in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia for their support in helping us set up a series of high-performance centres that will see interstate teams based in their state in accordance with all the strict local protocols and playing games.
"I would also like to thank all of our clubs, players, coaches, umpires and officials for their continued support and ability to adapt quickly as we navigate through the changing environment.
"The Victorian clubs now temporarily moving interstate are playing their part in ensuring our season endures in a year that will continue to challenge us all."
The announcement of widespread relocation comes after South Australian health minister Stephen Wade ruled out an Adelaide hub, saying football will not trump citizens' safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A sharp rise in coronavirus cases in Victoria has left the AFL scrambling to find suitable hub destinations, but South Australia's strict health protocols mean the league will have to look elsewhere.
"There won't be a hub in South Australia this year and that's disappointing," Wade told SEN SA Breakfast. "But public health has come first, we are already seeing state-to-state transmission and we don't want AFL to be a bridge to that.
"We are keen to work with the AFL to explore all options, but in the context of Victoria being the hub of coronavirus infections and the base of majority of AFL teams, South Australia won't be giving exemptions to the 14-day isolation."
While South Australia won't be the home to an AFL hub, there is still the possibility of football being played in the state. It's believed the South Australian government could allow teams to fly in after they have quarantined in New South Wales, Queensland or Western Australia.
Earlier in the week it was confirmed powerhouse clubs Collingwood and Geelong will also be relocating to Western Australia, following their Round 5 clashes, but that has since changed with the revised fixturing.