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How will the A-League weather the coronavirus storm?

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Expert
12th March, 2020
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With Football Federation Australia expected to make an announcement today about the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, what will happen if the A-League is postponed?

Brisbane Roar sent an email to fans late on Thursday assuring them that tonight’s clash with the Central Coast Mariners at Suncorp Stadium is safe to attend.

It was a sensible piece of proactive communication, and it reminded fans that extra precautions will be taken to try and stem the advance of a disease that has brought the world to a standstill.

The NBA is suspended indefinitely, there are rumours the English Premier League will soon follow suit and this weekend’s Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne has been cancelled.

Neymar

PSG’s Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund was played behind closed doors in Paris. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier – PSG/PSG via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the vision of Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert mocking precautions three days ago by wiping his hands over a bunch of microphones in the Utah press room will haunt the NBA for years to come.

Gobert has since been diagnosed with coronavirus, with the NBA responding by shutting down the league entirely in the middle of yesterday’s fixtures.

It was a reminder that as much we’d like to joke about the respiratory ailment otherwise known as COVID-19, the disease – for which there’s currently no vaccine – has genuine real-life consequences.

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Some of those consequences have been fatal. Hospitals in places like the heavily-populated Lombardy region in northern Italy have been overwhelmed by thousands of cases.

But what, exactly, are we supposed to be on the lookout for?

It was telling that the NRL allowed last night’s season opener between the Parramatta Eels and Canterbury Bulldogs to go ahead at Bankwest Stadium.

It was perhaps even more telling that the stadium was nowhere near full, with swathes of empty seats visible throughout the contest despite pre-match suggestions it would be close to a sell-out.

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And empty seats might be something we have to get used to over the coming weeks, because it looks increasingly likely that whichever competitions do continue, will have to be played behind closed doors.

Empty seats at the A-League.

(Albert Perez/Getty Images)

But should they?

There are mixed messages coming from medical experts about the efficacy of staying away from stadiums, with some suggesting there’s no real evidence that turning up at a match will lead to undue chance of exposure, while others think it’s madness to take the risk.

Part of the problem, especially in a faraway island nation like Australia, is that a lack of information about what coronavirus actually is has invariably caused people to panic.

Quite why the federal government has been so slow to try and inform the general populace of the effects of the disease is something only Scott Morrison and his advisors will know.

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But it now seems inevitable that the A-League campaign will be affected by the disease, just as the Socceroos and Matildas have recently been.

What will happen if that’s the case? Does the competition continue behind closed doors?

Should fixtures be postponed for a few weeks? Is there a chance a Sydney FC will be crowned champions automatically?

These are the sort of questions the FFA and the 11 A-League clubs will no doubt have been grappling with in the build-up to this weekend’s fixtures.

I’ll be at tonight’s Brisbane Roar game with my wife and my best mate, although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’ve been thinking a lot about coronavirus in the build-up to the game.

Am I just being paranoid? Or are these all questions the A-League will soon have to confront?