THE AFL season has been suspended until May 31 in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the aftermath of these unprecedented events, here is what AFL.com.au can provide:
Last updated: Tuesday 24 March at 12.00pm AEDT
What is happening with the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season?
The season has officially been suspended at the completion of round one by AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan. The season will be temporarily halted until May 31, with a review of the situation to take place at the end of April. The review will determine whether a further suspension period is subsequently required.
What happened with the 2020 NAB AFL Women's Competition?
Having already brought forward the finals series to ensure the best possible chance of ensuring a premier, the 2020 AFLW season was officially cancelled on Sunday. With four teams remaining in the hunt for the flag – Fremantle, North Melbourne, Carlton and Melbourne – no premier will be awarded.
Why has this decision been made?
The decision has been made due to the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus. The worsening situation in the community and the decision by various state governments to enforce tougher travel restrictions and border control measures were all contributing factors to the AFL's decision to enforce a suspension of competition.
Is there a chance the season is suspended beyond May 31?
Yes. The AFL will review the suspension period at the end of April, with clubs required to have a month's notice before the resumption of play. Should the League determine that a further suspension period is required, the indefinite halt to the game will continue.
What is the best-case scenario?
The ideal outcome for the AFL is that play will be resumed in the first week of June. However, the League will continue to be guided by state governments as to an approved return date. In order for the best-case scenario to eventuate, the AFL will need to inform clubs that the suspension period will come to an end when they review the situation at the end of April.
Is the AFL still planning for a 153-game season?
Yes. The AFL's plan is for the remaining 144 games, plus finals, in the reduced 2020 fixture to be played upon the resumption of competition. The League is focused on being as agile and as flexible as possible in respect to the remaining matches to ensure they are all played. The AFL is also prepared to run games for as late as possible in the 2020 calendar year to ensure all matches are completed.
What will the players do during the suspension period?
Clubs have given players the opportunity to return to their home states during the suspension period, with Gold Coast's No.1 and No.2 picks Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson among those to return to Victoria earlier this week. Foreign players, including Essendon's star Irish speedster Conor McKenna, have returned to their home country. Players will be able to train individually during the suspension period, but are not able to return to their clubs until a month before the season is confirmed to resume.
How has this impacted the AFL and clubs?
On Monday 23 March, the AFL made the difficult decision to restructure its organisation and that of the 18 AFL clubs. The majority of full-time staff (around 80 percent) would be stood down until May 31, while remaining staff would have reduced hours of around three or four days per week. The salaries of the AFL Executive team would also be reduced by a minimum of 20 percent indefinitely. AFL clubs are also in the midst of slashing $3 million from their soft cap expenditure, with the figure reducing from $9.7 million to $8.7 million this season, then to just $6.7 million by the 2021 season.
Will the players be forced to take pay cuts?
Yes. The AFL Players' Association is currently in the process of negotiation pay cuts with League officials. Players pledged an immediate 50 percent pay cut on Monday night, though the League's initial wish was for players' wages to be slashed by 79 percent. Negotiations remain ongoing.
Have any players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus?
No. Although a number of players have been tested – including Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury and Fremantle youngster Sam Switkowski – there are currently no AFL or AFLW players who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. A Collingwood staff member was confirmed to have tested positive for the virus upon returning from an overseas holiday, but had been in self-isolation and hadn't had contact with any members of the playing group or football department upon returning.
What will happen to the state leagues?
The state leagues will shut down until at least May 31. This comprises men's and women's competitions in each of the VFL, SANFL, NEAFL, WAFL and TSL. All national and state talent programs will also delay the start of their seasons until the end of May.
Will community footy go on?
The AFL has postponed all Auskick programs around the country until at least May 31. All independently governed community football leagues across the country have also been advised to postpone their seasons until at least May 31.