(Australian Associated Press)
The AFL is preparing to play games without fans due to the global coronavirus outbreak but round one of the premiership season will go ahead as planned.
League chief executive Gillon McLachlan spoke to reporters on Tuesday after the Victorian government warned that large gatherings will likely be impacted in the future as measures are taken to stop the spread of the virus.
“If mass gatherings are suspended we will play games in stadiums with no crowds,” McLachlan said.
“We are also working on other protocols to protect not only players and staff but also members and supporters.”
McLachlan revealed a working party had been set up to advise clubs and staff on the issue.
The move comes after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews forewarned schools could be closed down and large events called off as part of the state’s pandemic plan.
Fremantle also revealed on Tuesday that an unnamed player had been cleared of the virus after coming into contact with a person who had recently been in China and gone through a period of self-isolation.
The league is braced for the financial impact playing games in empty stadiums would have.
“Our game is strong,” McLachlan said.
“Over the past few years we’ve worked hard as an industry to build a strong balance sheet with a future fund that has enabled us to invest in revenue-generating assets.
“That strategy will allow us to work through whatever challenge is ahead of us and our clubs to support the game.
“We will continue to take the advice of governments and make preparations based on that advice.
“We have planned and, while it might get complicated, our game always finds a way.”
The AFL premiership season gets underway when Richmond host Carlton at the MCG on Thursday, March 19.