The AFL, NRL and A-League may be pushing on with their seasons, but the sight of empty stadiums with no atmosphere has many footy fans questioning how long the domestic leagues can hold out while the rest of the sporting world shuts down.
One positive coronavirus test in any of the leagues would likely end competition immediately, although it’s not clear whether all sport would be forced to cease.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan has admitted that his league – which got underway in surreal scenes at the MCG – would shut down for at least 30 days if any player tests positive.
“We would certainly stand down for a minimum of 30 days,” McLachlan told 3AW radio on Friday.
“It is a problem that is not going away … we understand it is going to be bumpy and we all have got to stick together.”
Previously, McLachlan had said a positive test to a player would result in a 14-day closure of the competition.
If social media is any guide, most fans are expecting the AFL to close sooner rather than later, given the number of Carlton and Richmond players who shared towels and water bottles in the season opener at the MCG.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, who has joined the AFL’s other coaches in taking a 20% pay cut, said the football world has a responsibility to make the competition viable for as long as possible.
Clubs are bracing for losses of up to $5 million as fans are locked out of games and membership numbers decrease as a result, although there is one upside, with AFL getting more coverage in the USA because of the lack of live sport there.
Four-time premiership coach Clarkson said he wanted the AFL to continue for as long as possible during the health crisis.
“We can’t deny that this is going to affect every industry, including our industry,” he told reporters via video conference.
But we don’t want to be so precious just to think we’re the only industry that matters.
“That’s why we don’t really want to talk about money, because we feel like the best way to get everything back to normal is try to play games of footy.
“It’s not so much about the financial stuff for mine, it’s about being leaders in terms of our actions.
“For as long as the authorities ask us, or allow us – as a coaching group, a club, a playing group – to provide some sort of entertainment in a pretty tough time (we’ll do that).”
The NRL has only just ensured all its teams can play, with the Warriors deciding Friday to stay in Australia at their NSW north coast base of Kingscliff base until the season ends.
Some players were in reportedly in tears after agreeing to stay, but they have now told CEO Cameron George they are in for the long haul.
“We’re in, we’re committed,” George said. “It’s game on for us now.
“We’ve had the decision made as a collective. To do it for our sponsors and our fans, we’re locked in.”