AFL set to announce resumption date, no fans to attend games

The NRL has done it, and now the AFL will soon follow suit in announcing a competition resumption date.

League CEO Gillon McLachlan told media on Thursday he expects to deliver an official season return date by the end of April, as well as a timeline for when players can recommence training.

The 2020 season has been on hold since mid-march -- after just one round was completed -- with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc around the globe. Back then, McLachlan suspended the competition until at least May 31 and announced a reduction in home and away season games to 17 per team.

"I want to be clear that there's a lot of work being done to return to play," McLachlan said via Zoom. "The decision we make will have the support of the relevant government authorities and their medical officers.

"We're better placed every day to make that decision, I think, as things become clearer and the more we're able to consult with key government and medical partners who have a greater level of data and insight into what's going on.

"We are finalising our plans internally. When the exact start date is, I don't have an answer, other than we're committed to being out informing our supporters and the public and others by the end of April."

Last week, in a highly criticised move, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg confirmed his competition would be returning on May 28, subject to alignment with NSW Health regulations.

While it's unclear when the AFL would be looking to return, one thing has been confirmed: vacant grandstands. McLachlan acknowledged the importance of continuing social distancing, even when football resumes.

"The reality is that we'll be starting without crowds," he said. "We need to be agile and flexible and we've said that right the way through to get this season away."

There had been speculation about additional games to be played in 2021, in order to make up for the shortened 2020 season, however McLachlan isn't convinced it's the correct way forward.

"It is challenging to think of going beyond 22 rounds," he said. "There is venue availability, there's challenges around the ability of the players to cope with an extended season and we've got commitments and contracts with venues, broadcasters and others that are challenging to roll into different seasons.

"It might be possible, we'll have a look at it. But instinctively, there are some structural challenges to doing that. But right now, there aren't bad ideas. It's incumbent upon us to look at everything."