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AFL in uncharted waters after shutdown

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22nd March, 2020
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The sun will rise on an unrecognisable AFL landscape on Monday after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of the premiership season.

With the game paused until at least May 31, a simple but very important question will be at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds: ‘So, what do we do now?’

Fans, clubs, players, broadcasters, sponsors and the thousands of people who rely on the industry to make a living are among those who will be looking for an answer to that question.

League boss Gillon McLachlan will immediately get to work on ensuring the clubs and their players are as prepared as they can be for this scary new reality.

First and foremost, this is a health crisis and the players will have to confront it without their teammates after the clubs were ordered into lockdown with players to stay at home.

McLachlan has signalled strict health and safety guidelines and support mechanisms will be put in place for players to help them through this difficult time.

Next on the agenda is the task of ensuring they have something to come back to once this storm has passed.

McLachlan, a savvy negotiator who has helped enrich the AFL with billions of dollars in broadcast and sponsorship deals, looked like a man acutely aware of the size of the financial blow on the way when he announced the season shutdown on Sunday.

“I never thought it would come to this,” McLachlan said.

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“… We’ll continue to re-assess and take the advice and do what we need to to survive as an industry and we’ll do what we need to to look after everyone’s well-being.”

There will be regular AFL briefings as the league grapples with the unprecedented situation.

McLachlan still wants to get the remaining 16 rounds of a shortened 17-round season started as soon as medical experts give the green light.

“The AFL plan is to play all remaining 144 games plus finals this year,” he said.

“The competition will need to be agile and flexible on when those games are scheduled and when play returns.

“We are prepared to run as late as possible in 2020 to complete the season if it is required.”

The ICC T20 World Cup will be in full swing, and in control of the AFL grand final stage the MCG, when a delayed premiership season would reach its finale unless the league compresses the season.

© AAP