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Coronavirus fears sees AFL announce plan to cut season to 17 rounds

Coronavirus fears sees AFL announce plan to cut season to 17 rounds
March 17, 2020

In the wake of the Coronavirus crisis, the AFL season will be shortened by five games, with the League considering whether round one of the 2020 competition will start on Thursday.

In an unprecedented move announced on Monday afternoon, AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said five matches of the season would be scrapped and that the competition would close down a minimum 14-day shutdown at the "first instance" of a player testing positive to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The AFL Players Association held two separate briefings with AFL and AFLW players on Monday night to gauge the players' stance of playing in their respective competitions this weekend.

McLachlan confirmed he had held conversations with AFLPA Chief Executive Paul Marsh over the prospect of players taking pay cuts due to playing less matches.

Confirming that he too would take a pay cut, McLachlan advised “we've got 40 weeks to get a 17-week season away. If it's done by the end of September, fabulous, but if we need more time, we'll do that. That's our commitment to our industry.

"This unprecedented community challenge requires unprecedented community response."

Details of the competition changes are as follows:

• The first four rounds of the season will remain as fixtured (regardless of when they are played), but the rest of the 13 rounds will be ‘recalibrated’.
• The potential of shortening game time provided greater flexibility to play multiple games in an ‘accelerated’ period. It could include playing multiple matches in the space of a week.
• Games with no spectators would allow flexibility for broadcasters to play matches on non-traditional football days including Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. 
• The four-week finals series structure would continue as planned - with no date locked in.
• The fixture for the rest of the NAB AFL Women's competition remained unconfirmed.
• State league competitions and talent programs will be put on hold until 31st May in an attempt to limit the outbreak due to their ‘part-time’ nature.
• A decision on the ability for AFL clubs to add players from state league competitions to a supplementary list would be finalised next week.
• AFL Commission Chairman Richard Goyder will chair a cabinet of club presidents to assist and lead the industry. It will be finalised on Tuesday.
• The League has every intention to play the Grand Final at the MCG. The first scheduled cricket match of the summer falls on 25th October with a Twenty20 World Cup match between New Zealand and West Indies.
• The AFL executive is working closely with AFL clubs on their finances to ensure clubs were able to work their way through this challenge.

Images: AFL at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium (top) and AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan (below).

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