While Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Sutton both expressed a desire to see football return, they won’t let it resume if it threatens the gains made in flattening the COVID-19 curve.
“We are all keen to get AFL back and get moving again with the right timing and the right assurances,” Sutton said.
“Gil said he hadn’t been within two metres of someone for five weeks and that’s the kind of demonstration we need across the board.”
Sutton said the AFL would have to have clear plans on dealing with player health.
“It needs a detailed proposal that works through exactly how risk is managed, how physical distancing is managed, and [how] surveillance for illness in any players is managed,” Sutton said.
Andrews said public gatherings would not return any time soon, echoing Sutton’s comments last week that sporting events would be unlikely to have crowds until 2021.
“We closed down large gatherings for a reason, [because] they do nothing but spread the virus,” Andrews said.
“Until we have a vaccine or more effective treatment then we will be forced into some tough decisions in the medium-term.
“I know it’s very frustrating that we can’t give people a [return] date and a clear series of steps, if we meet certain milestones then we can have a very different rule book.
“I’d love to have the pubs open, I’d love to have footy back, I’d love to have every single Victorian learning in a classroom.
“There is no playbook for this. We have to make the best decisions in good time with an abundance of caution or I fear we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
“We would be talking about a situation far closer to Europe or New York and there is no coming back from that.”
McLachlan said crowds returning this year would be challenging.
“I think that’s going to be challenging this year, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen later in the year,” McLachlan told 3AW on Monday, though he downplayed the likelihood of that happening.
“But we are going very well and things change,” he said.
“People are doing their job and staying isolated, that provides a level of comfort and hopefully opportunity.”
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.
Rachel is a breaking news reporter for The Age.