AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has vowed to “play on” even if teams are affected by COVID-19 infections.
This season should be the least-affected campaign since the more recent pre-coronavirus campaign in 2019.
All players and staff are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, which they weren’t during the heavily-impacted 2020 and 2021 seasons.
McLachlan is confident clubs will not have to relocate interstate for long periods, like they have been forced to do in the previous two seasons, and bulk fixture changes will be avoided.
“We’ve shown we can do that (play in hubs or bubbles) but we’re planning on playing the games as fixtured,” McLachlan said on Monday.
“Teams if they’re losing players will be able to cope with them, we’re going to play on.
“This is living with COVID, in our mindset, in year three.
“We want our supporters to know that they can plan this year to come to games, buy their tickets, get organised and come to the footy and enjoy it with their family and friends.”
The AFL spent $76 million during the past two seasons to keep its competition running during the pandemic.
The cost blowouts were due to COVID-19 testing for players and staff, travel and accommodation requirements and the creation of hubs across the country.
But the AFL will welcome back capacity crowds across Victoria in a major boost as the competition and its clubs attempt to recover from the financial hits.
Up to 100,000 fans will be allowed at the MCG when the season begins on March 16, with premiers Melbourne hosting the Western Bulldogs in a rematch of last year’s grand final.
Most Demons supporters were denied the opportunity to watch the club’s drought-breaking flag in person, with the decider held at Optus Stadium in Perth due to Melbourne being in lockdown.
The AFL has also announced a price freeze on general admission tickets for all matches at the MCG and Marvel Stadium this season.