UPDATE: The AFL have confirmed that all AFL and AFLW matches from Saturday will continue without fans.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan confirmed today that the AFL season will proceed, but will do so without fan attendance for the foreseeable future.
“The health and safety of fans, players, umpires, officials, partners and communities is the priority, so it is important that we take the advice of those that know best, and that advice right now is to continue with matches but not to host mass gatherings which can put everyone at risk,” Mr McLachlan said.
“We have said from the outset that we will rely on the advice of the medical experts who have been planning to deal with this situation for some time and we will continue to make decisions based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officers.
“I am disappointed for our fans but we cannot put them in a situation that potentially jeopardises the health and well-being of the whole community.
"The landscape is changing quickly, each organisation has their own set of challenges, but our clubs, players, officials and fans know that the health and safety of all is the number 1 priority.
“At an AFL club level, our football departments are elite sporting environments. Club doctors and medical staff are well equipped to work through any precautionary measures and manage any player health concerns – this is something they continue to do on a daily basis as they prepare for the season.
“We will continue to provide clubs with protocols to assist with the health and safety of players, officials and supporters. As I said, the situation is fluid and the protocols will be updated regularly to reflect this.” he said.
"We are working through a major issue that impacts the wider community and we will work with all our clubs and industry partners to ensure that footy finds a way."
Following the cancelation of the Formula 1 GP this morning, the AFLW locking down matches from Saturday, and the federal government's announcement to ban all non-essential public gatherings of more than 500 people, the AFL were effectively forced into a decision - play matches behind closed doors, or postpone the start of the season.
The AFLW has confirmed that all matches from Saturday onwards will be lock outs as well, with fans not permitted to attend. Only Friday night's match between the Geelong Cats and North Melbourne. Only host players, coaches, essential club officials, umpires, AFL officials, broadcast teams, media and required venue staff will be permitted to attend, with each match closed to the general public, and ticket holders.
All major American sporting leagues have been suspended, the ATP Tour has been shut down for six weeks, PGA tour events for four weeks, and the English Premier League is in crisis talks with Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta and a Chelsea player testing positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announced organised gatherings of 500 or more people would be banned.
"Based on the advice that we've received today, it has been recommended to us that we move to a position by Monday, where we will be advising against organised non-essential gatherings of persons 500 or greater.
"That does not include schools, universities, public transport, airports, or work. These events that we are advising against and restrict, is not essential gatherings of 500 people or more."
The possibility of playing AFL matches at the MCG in October has been floated, but it is not as straightforward as it looks, given the T20 World Cup starting 3 weeks after the AFL season finishes. It's to be seen whether or not the ICC would stick to its 21-day exclusion zone of sports played at tournament events, or if the MCC would entertain hosting matches in October.
The NBA have canceled their season, in fact most major sporting events around the world have been canceled or postponed, with Formula 1, AFLW, AFL and NRL deciding to break rank. Fans were left fuming at Albert Park when gates were locked, and the event eventually canceled, with little-to-no information communicated to those waiting in lines.
The NBL finals series is the latest sport to be played behind closed doors, with fans unable to attend any of the final matches.
There's less certainty over the AFL for next month, with the World Health Organisation predicting Australia will experience peak infection over the Easter. Should any players, staff, coaches or support personnel contract the virus, it could result in the permanent postponement or cancelation of the season.
Todd Greenberg, CEO of the NRL announced today that the first round of NRL will continue as planned with fans permitted to attend, with the second round and onwards to continue as planned without fans.
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