The AFL will play matches without a crowd for the foreseeable future, due to the ongoing coronavirus threat.
League CEO Gillon McLachlan announced on Friday all scheduled matches will proceed as planned – but fans won’t be able to attend.
It follows similar measures undertaken by Cricket Australia for the recent ODI series between Australian and New Zealand, which has also seen matches played behind closed doors.
“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,” McLachlan said in a statement.
“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.”
It’s the first time in competition history fans will be barred from matches.
The ongoing AFLW season will also be played behind closed doors until further notice, with the exception of Friday night’s game between Geelong and North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium.
The AFL have confirmed fans who have already bought tickets for their club’s Round 1 matches through Ticketmaster or Ticketek will receive a full refund, while club, AFL and venue members will receive further information in the coming days.
Clubs have already been taking steps to prevent players from being exposed to coronavirus, including banning open training sessions, limiting media and sponsorship interviews and advising players to abstain from handshakes and high-fives.
The AFL remain open to the possibility of matches being postponed or even cancelled, should the crisis worsen in the coming weeks.