The Australian Football League (AFL) has officially suspended its 2019 season until at least May 31 and has cancelled the AFLW season mid-finals, due to growing concerns over COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
This decision comes after several Australian states introduced strict self-quarantine rules and border closures, along with the shutdown of several non-essential services including pubs, gyms, indoor recreation and restaurants.
AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, said the league will begin consulting with clubs on best practice regarding cost-cutting and how to manage the financial blow.
“To say it [Coronavirus] is the most serious threat to our game in 100 years is an understatement,” McLachlan said.
“It is unprecedented in its impact.
“It is unprecedented in the impact it is having on our game and the wider community, and as a community and as a code, we all need to take the unprecedented and required actions to get through this together.
“I know that everyone involved in our game and our millions of supporters will be impacted by this decision and that many people will suffer significant hardship as are people right across the community but I also know that we all have a responsibility to the community and each other.
“And we have the will to work collectively to overcome this crisis,” he said.
This decision comes after the completion of the first round of the 2020 season, where all games were played in stadiums without any spectators.
The AFL has announced it will review the suspension period at the end of April, with clubs being required to have a month’s notice before the season can resume.
AFL Players’ Association CEO, Paul Marsh, said he understands the AFL’s decision to suspend the men’s season and cancel the AFLW season.
“It was discussed with AFLW player delegates from all clubs last week as to their preferred finals structure and, after consultation, the majority view was to push to a top eight, knowing that there was a risk the competition might come to an early conclusion if the COVID-19 situation continued to intensify,” Marsh said.
“Unfortunately, this is now the case.
“We congratulate all AFLW players on their contribution to the 2020 season.
“We remain optimistic that the 2020 AFL season will recommence at the right time, but, for now, we believe today’s decision is the right one for players, staff, clubs and the community,” he said.
The AFL, following this decision, has decided to restructure its organisation, leading to around 80 percent of full-time staff being stood down and remaining staff being told their hours will be reduced to around three or four days per week.
AFL players immediately pledged a 50 percent pay cut following the decision, despite the league revealing their desired figure was to cut player wage by 79 percent; the AFL Players’ Association is currently in negotiations with AFL officials over the exact figure.
Players have also been told they can return to their home states or countries during the suspension period, and will be allowed to train individually, with a return to their respective clubs allowed a month before the season resumes.