The AFL have announced the start of the 2020 season will go ahead as planned – behind closed doors – despite several other sporting leagues falling victim to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
League CEO Gillon McLachlan announced today that Round 1, slated to begin tomorrow night, will go ahead despite mounting pressure to postpone the season. Matches will be reduced to 16-minute quarters with time-on.
The announcement comes despite the suspension of all state competitions and talent programs – including the national one – until May 31. The AFL Women’s competition will skip straight to the finals series.
Citing the advice of the country’s chief medical officer. McLachlan said he was confident in the advice that it was appropriate to play.
“Tonight, our 17-round season becomes a 153-game journey,” McLachlan said in a press conference – hinting heavily that this year’s fixture will be unprecedentedly fluid and feature plenty of midweek football.
“Footy is resilient and footy will find a way through.”
After delaying their decision on Round 1 twice over the course of the last two days, newly announced federal government restrictions on public gatherings looked to have forced the AFL’s hand.
The AFL players association had come out overwhelmingly in favour of playing behind closed doors and, although AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh cast doubt on that situation eventuating earlier today, the players have been granted their wish.