THE AFL 2020 competition will start on schedule on Thursday night with reigning premiers Richmond to host Carlton at the MCG, beginning what league CEO Gillon McLachlan has called a season “that will not look like any other”.
The decision to push ahead in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic came after a marathon AFL Commission meeting followed by a teleconference with all 18 club chief executives on Wednesday.
“I think the Commission needed to consider widely and understand the position clearly of the chief medical officer and the medical industry, of government, of our clubs, our presidents, our industry really,” McLachlan told reporters.
The first four of a scheduled 17 rounds will be crammed into a quicker time frame if possible, with the competition to be postponed immediately if and when any player or official tests positive to coronavirus.
The AFLW season will also go ahead this weekend, although the last two home and away rounds have been ditched, with the finals to commence straight away.
Some 88 per cent of AFL players voted on Monday night in favour of starting the season this week despite the outbreak of COVID-19, which has prompted sporting leagues around the world to shut down.
“Our industry is unified in making a decision to start,” said McLachlan.
“The reality is that this season will not look like any other.
“As I said earlier in the week this is an unprecedented challenge and it is going to take unprecedented action to get through it all
“We’ve taken action in both the men’s and women’s seasons.
“The 153 games will not look like a standard 17-round season.
“But footy is resilient and footy will find a way through.”
Earlier in the day, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said the Tigers were ready and willing to kick off their premiership defence against the Blues.
All round-one games will be played behind closed doors with shortened 16-and-a- half minute quarters plus time-on.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a range of new measures on Wednesday morning, including a ban on all non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.
But the prime minister made it clear that it was up the AFL and NRL to determine whether or not to postpone their seasons.
© AAP 2020