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AFL suspends season until May 30 putting Australian rules football on hold

After two rounds of play, the league has decided to suspend play for the balance of the season

Christian Petracca of the Demons and Jack Redden of the Eagles contest for the ball during the round 1 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Melbourne Demons at Optus Stadium on March 22, 2020 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The Australian Football League is the latest to suspend play due to coronavirus, and AFL CEO Gil McLachlan made the unusual decision to suspend play at a press conference during halftime of the Brisbane Lions vs. Hawthorn Hawks match last night.

That match and the one afterwards between the Melbourne Demons and West Coast Eagles were played to completion, but after two rounds of play the league has suspended.

“Our industry provides livelihoods for thousands and thousands of people but our key focus at the moment – like every organisation in the country – is to do everything that needs to be done to help slow the spread of this virus and to keep people as healthy as possible,” Mr McLachlan said.

”To say this is the most serious threat to our game in 100 years is an understatement. It is unprecedented in its impact. It is unprecedented in the impact it is having on our game and the wider community, and as a community and as a code, we all need to take the unprecedented and required actions to get through this together.

”I know that everyone involved in our game and our millions of supporters will be impacted by this decision and that many people will suffer significant hardship as are people right across the community but I also know that we all have a responsibility to the community and each other. And we have the will to work collectively to overcome this crisis.

Mr McLachlan said the AFL had been given advice by the Government and the Chief Medical Officers that it was right to start the season, but that advice had also included that it would be paused at some stage.

”It was the right decision to start the season, and clearly it is now the right decision to stop. That is why we have acted immediately to take this step to play our role in the community and to protect the long-term future of our game.”

It adds to the growing list of sports that have suspended or cancelled seasons in the wake of Covid-19. The AFL Women’s league was cancelled in full and play has ended for the 2020 season.

The 18-team league is one of the most popular sports on the continent, and had played 18 games in 2020 in front of empty stands. The decision was made before the season to have each of the four quarters be 16 minutes instead of 20, and scheduling games for only 17 weeks instead of 23.