Back-end blockbusters part of scenario planning for fixture

But there is also an acceptance that with scheduling complex, and flexibility required to ensure 144 matches plus finals are played, there would be reluctance to overcomplicate the fixturing process.

There is also the prospect that venues with the capacity for large crowds will be out of action from October until mid-November when cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup is scheduled.

With one round completed, the AFL has decided to redraw the fixture completely rather than retain the same match-ups for the first four rounds, as was the plan when the AFL decided to start the season without crowds. It was shut down at the completion of round one.

That means the Showdown and the clash between competition heavyweights Richmond and Collingwood that was scheduled for round two in the original fixture could occur at any time in the revamped season.

An Essendon v Collingwood match (the two matches between the two clubs were the two biggest-drawing home-and-away matches in 2019) could be played later in the season to give AFL fans every chance to see their two clubs in action, while the same could occur for the Western Derby.

Of course, the possibility of a series of matches being played between six clubs in quarantine hubs makes such ideals even more difficult but the AFL – which has been working hand in hand with broadcasters Channel Seven and Foxtel since the shutdown – would be keen even without crowds to schedule matches between big-drawing clubs in prime-time slots when possible to maximise ratings.

There is also the prospect of double headers or even triple headers being played, with football managers agreeing when they met the AFL last week they would be happy to do everything they could to play games as long as the health and well-being of players wasn’t compromised.

AFL football operations manager Steven Hocking told The Age on Monday a range of options were being considered to get 144 games played and fixturing would be critical.

“It is just part of how you set up a fixture that is the important part, the fixture is the number one and from there, how do you execute and deliver the fixture? That is where we are currently.”

A working group called Project Return has been established to develop the competition’s return-to-play plan, with clubs expecting an update on those plans on April 27, with industry participants expecting the shutdown to extend beyond May 31.


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