Coronavirus: AFL to go ahead as planned despite pandemic

Fans cheer on Richmond players as they run onto the field at the MCG before their game against Carlton in 2019
The traditional AFL season-opener between Richmond and Carlton at the MCG will go ahead on Thursday, but behind closed doors

The 2020 Australian Football League (AFL) season is to begin as planned despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Richmond play Carlton behind closed doors at Melbourne's MCG on Thursday.

The decision was taken following meetings with club chief executives, Australia's chief medical officer and government representatives.

"We don't know how many games we will get into this 153-game journey before we have to pause," said AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.

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Despite banning mass gatherings of 100 or more people, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was up to the AFL to decide if it proceeded with matches.

The AFL Players Association advised the AFL on Tuesday that its players wanted to start the season.

The commission has already reduced the 2020 season from 22 matches to 17 in a bid to provide more flexibility should games be halted.

"We embark on this journey with clear instruction from the government that all industry and all parts of society need to keep moving forward and we simply cannot stand still," said McLachlan.

"We must go forward day by day listening to the advice and continue to make the best decisions for our industry while balancing well-being, welfare, leadership, and economic and social impacts.

"But what I do know today is I feel comfortable with the government and medical advice, and the support of our presidents, CEOs, players and coaches."