Up to 100,000 sports fans will be locked out of today’s Aussie Rules season opener at Melbourne’s MCG with Australian Football League (AFL) games to be played behind closed doors until further notice.
The Richmond versus Carlton game is the traditional season opener and attracted 85,000 fans when it was played last year at the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The AFL has decided to begin the season as normal on the pitch with the Australian authorities having delegated the decision to its sports leagues. The National Rugby League (NRL) and Hyundai A-League soccer will also continue this weekend, but also behind closed doors after a ban on mass gatherings.
Some 380,000 tickets were sold for the first week of the 2019 AFL season at an average of 42,250 per game.
AFL commissioners voted yesterday (Wednesday) to start the season behind closed doors after Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave them the opportunity to make their own decision.
Prime Minister Morrison has announced a range of new measures, including a ban on all non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.
The government has not announced a timeframe, meaning the whole season could be played without spectators.
“It depends how this plays out, but it (no crowds) feels like it’s a possibility,” AFL chief Gillon McLachlan told reporters on Wednesday night.
“I think it’s going to be a long year and our players and industry want to get moving.
“The players know this is going to be a long journey in what is an unprecedented time.”
Football Federation Australia (FFA) announced earlier this week that fans will not be able to attend the remaining six rounds of the A-League season.
“This is an unprecedented time and extremely complex for the sport and society at large,” FFA chief executive James Johnson said.
Image: AFL (Twitter)