THE AFL season will be reduced to 17 rounds, with all teams playing each other once.
In an unprecedented move announced on Monday afternoon, League CEO Gillon McLachlan said five matches would be scrapped due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
A decision on whether round one begins this Thursday night as scheduled is expected in the next 24 hours.
REPLACEMENT PLAYERS? The top contenders
However, McLachlan revealed that the League would come to a standstill at the "first instance" a player tested positive to COVID-19, which would result in a 14-day shutdown at a minimum.
As of Monday evening, Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury was awaiting the outcome of tests for COVID-19.
NO STATE LEAGUES All second-tier comps shut down for months
The AFL Players Association held two separate briefings with AFL and AFLW players on Monday night to gauge the players' stance of playing in their respective competitions this weekend.
Decision to be delayed till tomorrow as to whether Round 1 starts. Total rounds to be reduced regardless, down to 17. More on https://t.co/wR0VHAEDPw— Damian Barrett (@barrettdamian) March 16, 2020
McLachlan confirmed he had held conversations with AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh over the prospect of players taking pay cuts due to playing less matches.
FULL STATEMENT Read McLachlan's speech announcing the 17-game season
"We've got 40 weeks to get a 17-week season away. If it's done by the end of September, fabulous, but if we need more time, we'll do that. That's our commitment to our industry," McLachlan said.
"This unprecedented community challenge requires unprecedented community response."
McLachlan also said:
- The first four rounds of the season would remain as fixtured (regardless of when they are played), but the rest of the 13 rounds would be "recalibrated".
- The potential of shortening game time provided greater flexibility to play multiple games in an "accelerated" period. It could include playing multiple matches in the space of a week.
- Games with no spectators would allow flexibility for broadcasters to play matches on non-traditional football days including Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
- The four-week finals series structure would continue as planned – with no date locked in.
- The fixture for the rest of the NAB AFL Women's competition remained unconfirmed.
- A decision on the ability for AFL clubs to add players from state league competitions to a supplementary list would be finalised next week.
- AFL Commission Chairman Richard Goyder will chair a cabinet of club presidents to assist and lead the industry. It will be finalised on Tuesday.
- The League has every intention to play the Grand Final at the MCG. The first scheduled cricket match of the summer falls on October 25 with a Twenty20 World Cup match between New Zealand and West Indies.
- The AFL executive was working closely with AFL clubs on their finances to ensure clubs were able to work their way through this challenge.
- McLachlan confirmed that he too would take a pay cut.