How Queensland will become an AFL state
QUEENSLAND will become the new home of the AFL - and the nation's sporting capital - with all 10 Victorian clubs set to relocate to the Sunshine State for the rest of the season.
Every Victorian and NSW-based Supercars racing team will also relocate to Queensland from next week, while the NRL is prepared to follow suit if the current coronavirus situation in Sydney continues to worsen.
In a coup worth an estimated $30 million to the state's ailing tourism industry, the Queensland government has allowed the AFL to base Victorian teams here for the next 10 weeks and will fight hard for the rights to the grand final, one of the biggest events on the Australian sporting calendar.
With the NRL's Melbourne Storm already based on the Sunshine Coast, it means Queensland will be home to at least 18 of the country's top football teams over the coming months - more if the NRL and soccer's A-League join the rush.
Two weeks after The Courier-Mail revealed details of a plan to base Victorian teams in the Sunshine State, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday announced the Government had reached an agreement with the AFL to keep the competition running.
Six Victorian clubs have already made temporary digs on the Gold Coast, but their stays will now extend until potentially the end of the season, with four other clubs to arrive in the Sunshine State within days as Melbourne's coronavirus crisis spirals out of control.
AFL chiefs were yesterday scrambling to rearrange the season draw to allow Victorian teams to base themselves in a Queensland hub for most matches, outside of fly-in, fly-out visits to WA and SA.
AFL officials are also closely monitoring the situation in Sydney, where coronavirus hot spots have flared.
It is understood the Gabba in Brisbane and the Gold Coast's Metricon Stadium will host the majority of matches, with Cazaly's Stadium in Cairns also firming as a venue for some games along with the NT and Tasmania.
The Queensland Government is keen to see games played in Cairns for the economic stimulus to a tourist town smashed by the absence of international travel, while the AFL is receptive to the idea because it would lessen the impact on the playing surfaces at the Gabba and Metricon.
With the AFL spending up to $3 million a week to house teams in Queensland, it means a $30 million shot in the arm for Queensland hotels and resorts who will host up to 100 players, support staff and family members per club.
Ms Palaszczuk said strict COVID-safe protocols would be in place, allowing the AFL to book hundreds of Queensland hotel rooms.
"You can imagine what that means to those businesses," she said.
"It's another tick for the legacy of the Commonwealth Games and the Gold Coast's Metricon Stadium.
"It's more fire in the belly for the Suns and the Lions."
Lions CEO Greg Swann said the Queensland Government had saved the AFL.
"They have almost single-handedly kept the competition alive," he said.
"They've led the way on this and it is going to be a massive free kick for the code in this state.
"The national spotlight will really be on Queensland."
Tourism and Events Queensland will try to capitalise on that spotlight by showcasing the state's jewels to the massive TV audiences watching games from interstate.
AFL chief financial officer and fixtures boss Travis Auld said the Queensland Government had shown great support for keeping the competition afloat.
"Each of the clubs who have spent time in southeast Queensland have been extremely complimentary of the excellent training and accommodation facilities," he said.
"This is a great shot in the arm for football in this state."
The growing armies of Suns and Lions fans will revel in the opportunity to watch their teams play almost every week.
Young fan Bronte Mooney, 7, said she loved watching the Suns win, but might have to pick a second team with the glut of games on the Gold Coast.
Her sister Tilly, 5, said she was looking forward to having her face painted in the colours of the different teams ready to call the coast home.
Seven Supercars teams from southern states will arrive in Queensland next week to establish their own hubs, while NRL Acting CEO Andrew Abdo yesterday said 'nothing was off the table' to keep the season on track.
"We are planning for every scenario," he said.
However the NRL is also considering the possibility of moving Queensland teams in to NSW.
Originally published as How Queensland will become an AFL state