AFL Victoria has paved the way clear for community football club-sanctioned training to restart.
Clubs have been given permission to resume a restricted training regime from Monday, May 25, in keeping with state government COVID-19 "return to play" guidelines.
Key protocols include:
+ Training to resume in groups of up to 10 people. This does not include a coach or the minimum number of support staff who are reasonably required to manage the activity.
+ Two groups of 10 can utilise the same oval provided they do not operate closely together, and the oval is split into two zones.
AFL Victoria will release its "return to train" protocols in detail early this week.
"This will provide the opportunity to communicate our protocols with leagues and allow volunteers and clubs time to digest the protocols, go through an education period and prepare themselves ahead of returning to club sanctioned training," an AFL Victoria statement said.
While joining all the football community in welcoming the announcement, Ballarat Football Club president Karl Drever said many clubs would face logistical challenges meeting protocols.
He said one of the obvious issues would be finding the physical space and time to fit in training sessions.
Drever said it was not just a matter of catering for senior players. He said there was also the need to meet the requirements for expansive junior and growing female programs.
With the Ballarat Football League senior competition incorporating seniors, reserves and under-19 competitions, up to 80 players can at times share one oval for training.
Multiple junior teams also training side-by-side on the one playing surface.
"Even without restrictions it can be difficult," Drever said. He said there was going to be a lot to work through.
Drever said the Ballarat Swans were fortunate to have two ovals with excellent lighting, which would help significantly, but not all clubs were not in that position.
AFL Victoria head of community football Stephen O'Donohue said it would continue to work with the State Government to ensure alignment with its advice, and in the event of further easing of restrictions, it hoped to be able to return to full training and competition later in the year, with hygiene and safety protocols firmly in place.
"Our primary focus is preparing to return to train in a safe environment in a well prepared and educated manner.
"In order for this return to play to be successful, and in line with government advice, it is essential that clubs and individuals work within the timelines and protocols and do not move ahead of the level and restrictions in place," O'Donohue said.
AFL Victoria is also requiring that each club appoint a COVID safety officer who is responsible for ensuring all protocols are adhered to and participants can return to a prepared and safe environment.