Collingwood president Eddie McGuire says the AFL was talked out of delaying the start of its season by federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Richmond and Carlton will open the season behind closed doors at the MCG on Thursday night as planned.
McGuire revealed AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and the commission had to be convinced during extended meetings on Wednesday.
“It was maybe 12 hours of discussion throughout the course of the day and the competition was off for about 11-and-a-half of them,” McGuire told Triple M’s Hot Breakfast.
“Greg Hunt and the head medical officer Brendan Murphy, they won the day for footy; they convinced the commission.
“Gill, to his credit, was prosecuting the case not to play. This wasn’t reckless footy people just wanting to play and bugger everyone else.”
Exclusive: The Phone Call that Saved Footy.
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— Seb Costello (@SebCostello9) March 18, 2020
The federal government has implemented a range of new measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on all non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.
Those measures could last up to six months, or more, which could lock fans out of attending games for the entire AFL season.
But Mr Hunt said there were “no legal or health barriers” for the AFL to proceed in playing behind closed doors during the pandemic.
“So long as you comply with the 500 mass gathering rule for public events and keep it under 100 in any individual room … then there was no barrier on the legal side,” he told Triple M.
“Professor Murphy took them through the health side of it and they concluded there were no legal or health barriers.”
“We knew the AFL was wrestling with the issue so myself offered to give the legal position and Professor Brendan Murphy to give the medical position and essentially Gill took it up”.
“It’s now like community sport because the audiences aren’t there in person, but it will provide a huge boost to community morale.
“My view is that this (going ahead with the AFL season) is an important step for the community.
“At this stage, if we can have as much normality as possible – this is what the Prime Minister is seeking to do.”