Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, has advised Australia’s State and Federal governments to ban public gatherings of more than 500 people due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the immediate future of the country’s sporting competitions in grave doubt.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the ban will not come into effect until Monday, putting the onus on governing bodies to make the call on whether their sporting events will go ahead this weekend.
The news of Professor Murphy’s advice came less than an hour after the NRL announced plans to persevere with tonight’s two fixtures as per usual, while the FFA had released a statement confirming the weekend’s A-League and W-League matches would proceed as normal, a stance they reiterated later in the day.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, it is believed the NRL will go ahead with the two Friday night games as planned, with a decision to be made tomorrow morning about the rest of the round.
The AFL haven’t made any public announcement on their plans for this year’s competition, due to begin next Thursday, although many clubs have released their own responses to the spread of coronavirus. However, crowds will be allowed at tonight’s AFLW match between the Cats and Kangaroos in Geelong before that competition is closed to fans from Saturday onwards.
For the start of the men’s competition, the only decision facing the AFL is whether to play matches behind closed doors or to postpone it entirely, with the former measure reportedly set to be confirmed early next week.
The Covid-19 pandemic has already had a massive impact on the sporting world both inside and outside Australia. This weekend’s Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne was cancelled this morning, while Australia’s men’s ODI series against New Zealand will be played in empty stadiums after Cricket Australia announced a crowd ban for the three fixtures. Australian fast bowler Kane Richardson has been withdrawn from the series following a test for the illness which he is still awaiting the results for.
Super Rugby and Super W matches in Australia will be played in empty stadiums from next weekend onwards, while next month’s Australian Swimming Championships have been cancelled.
Overseas, the NBA has been postponed for at least 30 days after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert, a teammate of Australian Joe Ingles, tested positive for the virus. Fellow Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell has also tested positive since the postponement.
In England, Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi have both tested positive for the illness, making an English Premier League postponement seemingly inevitable, while all sport in Italy has been put on hold as the country goes into lockdown.