NBA poaches AFL official for COVID safety role

The official who ran the AFL's COVID-19 testing and protocols this year has been poached by America's NBA to do a similar role in one of the globe's biggest competitions.

Patrick Clifton, who co-authored the AFL's protocols and the testing regime for COVID-19, will become the NBA's vice-president of player health in the new year and will play a key role in seeking to ensure that NBA players – some of the highest paid athletes in the world – are protected from the coronavirus as the pandemic rages in the United States.

Clifton, the AFL's head of safety and laws, was responsible for the AFL's successful COVID protocols and testing, having devised the rules – which saw a number of players fined and suspended for breaches in and outside of club hubs – along with Simon Clarke, the AFL's head of risk and compliance.

Clifton, who has a legal background, was viewed as a future senior figure in the AFL, also managed the AFL's concussion protocols, the tribunal and the still contentious score review system.

The AFL had only one positive COVID-19 test to a player in 2020, and that player, Essendon's Conor McKenna had initially tested negative, in what AFL officials think was a very low level of the virus that may have originated when McKenna was in Ireland during the shutdown.

Clifton had links to the NBA through his concussion portfolio which saw him share information with overseas competitions and sources said this had helped put him on the NBA's radar and that multi-billion dollar league faces the 2020-21 season amid a pandemic that forced it to shut down in March, as a number of players tested positive.

The NBA resumed in July in bubbles or hubs, and managed to finish the season.
The next NBA season starts on December 23 (AEDT), having just held the draft.

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