AFL bracing for full season without crowds
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has conceded footy might be played without fans throughout the entire season given the latest medical advice on coronavirus.
The league is increasingly confident it will get a full season underway but playing without any fans would be a savage financial blow for clubs already reeling from the shutdown.
McLachlan admitted that picture could change but Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton said on Saturday he did not see a time in 2020 where mass gatherings would be allowed.
It would mean a write off of an entire season of ticket sales and corporate packages that are worth millions of dollars to each club.
But footy will be back this year and potentially by June, with premier Daniel Andrews telling Nine this morning "it will be a real boost if we can get footy going again".
McLachlan said he hoped to get the season finished well before New Year's Eve but potentially without any crowds - which would include the Grand Final.
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"I take a line through what (Victoria's Chief Health Officer) Brett Sutton said on Saturday … (and) I think that's going to be challenging (to host crowds) this year," he said on 3AW.
"That doesn't mean it won't happen later in the year, but certainly not contemplating crowds at the start.
"And I think if you take a line through what Brett Sutton said, who in Victoria will be the guy making the decision, I think it's a challenge to have (crowds) at all this year. But we are going very well and things change."
Victoria recorded only one new coronavirus positive in the past 24 hours, with McLachlan saying those figures meant the league could be optimistic it could return.
The league is set to decide by April 27 on a restart date or at least provide more clarity about a return for clubs.
"No, I don't have a specific one," said McLachlan of that return date.
"Clearly the lower rate of testing positive is important so we take our advice from the chief medical officer about exactly what it looks like.
"That envelope, one overnight and much less in the last week or two means people are doing their jobs. It provides a level of comfort and hopefully an opportunity.
"We wouldn't do anything without the government and chief medical officer signing off on it.
"It is a decision for people in businesses themselves but we won't be doing it unless we have clear sight from the authorities and chief medical officer."
If the league starts its home-and-away season in July it will have enough time to finish the season before New Year's Eve despite it still officially being in the picture for the AFL' decider.
"It is only because we have technically said we would push as late as we could in 2020 to get the season away," McLachlan said of speculation about that date.
"Hopefully we have enough time and will get a season with continuity and finishes before then.
"There is something dramatic about that but what are looking at doesn't finish that late, only if we had unforeseen circumstances."
Originally published as AFL bracing for full season without crowds