'Brings a tear to your eye': AFL fans' stunning act amid virus crisis

·4-min read

Not even the coronavirus pandemic can break the resolve of diehard AFL fans, according to Collingwood president Eddie McGuire.

The AFL has already announced that games starting from round one this week will be played behind closed doors.

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McLachlan was already forced to announce on Monday that the 2020 season would be reduced by six games to encompass 17 games - with teams playing each other once only.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has also announced that if one player tests positive for coronavirus, the season will be suspended indefinitely.

That scenario became a real possibility when Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury was quarantined from teammates and tested for coronavirus after displaying flu-like symptoms.

Fortunately, Pendlebury was cleared of the virus after his test came back negative on Tuesday.

Yet amid all the chaos and uncertainty around the AFL season, McGuire has revealed a gesture from his clubs fans left him on the verge of tears.

On the same day that the AFL announced that fans would be locked out of games for the first four rounds at least, McGuire says the Magpies recorded a spike in season membership sales.

Seen here, Eddie McGuire says fans are still buying season membership amid the virus crisis.
Eddie McGuire says coronavirus hasn't stopped Collingwood fans purchasing season memberships. Pic: Getty

“It brings a tear to your eye, it really does,” he said.

“This is the most heartbreaking thing we’ve ever faced and we haven’t even got into it yet.”

McGuire said the financial impact on AFL from coronavirus is set to be devastating.

Brisbane Lions chief executive Greg Swann said his club would lose $5 million in gate-takings alone if the season was played entirely behind closed doors.

The AFL's executive team is understood to be willing to take pay cuts to help the league stay afloat and the AFL Players Association is reportedly considering the idea of players taking a 20 percent pay cut in light of the shortened season and decrease in revenue across the game.

McGuire said player pay cuts would be the harsh reality of a "horrific" situation the sport finds itself in.

“You can’t give money you haven’t got,” McGuire said on SEN Radio.

“Even if we get 17 games and have a final 20, we’re not going to get near the money we need that we’re losing in match receipts and sponsorships and everything else. So on our best day it’s going to be horrific, there’s no doubt about that.”

Already the AFL has shortened the season to a 17-round home-and-away campaign with the first four rounds to be played in closed stadiums.

Lions CEO predicts massive hit for club

Lions CEO Swann said that would hurt Brisbane’s hip pocket given the Easter Thursday clash with Collingwood is one of those where spectators will be locked out.

"We're all facing big financial challenges no doubt about that," Swann said.

"Everyone's doing the modelling now. It depends which games you get and which games are in front of crowds and which games aren't.

"For example I think the first four rounds are going to go as is and one of those is Collingwood which was going to be an Easter Thursday, that would've been a massive day for us.

"We're looking, from a gates perspective, it's probably going to cost us the best part of $5 million if we don't play in front of crowds."

As a tenant of the Gabba, the Lions pay thousands of dollars to the state government's Stadiums Queensland business to use the venue for each home match.

Swann said the Lions - as well as clubs from several other codes - were in talks with the government about the impact of the virus.

"So far the indications are that Stadiums Queensland will support all the codes. That's really encouraging," he said.

"Everybody's looking to do the right thing. We're all going to take a haircut of some description, it's just really trying to work our way through that."

Swann also backed the decision to reduce the season to 17 matches and said it's a practical and fair outcome.

"At some stage someone will get tested positive and we'll close the comp down for a while and then we might reconvene at a later stage," he said.

"So going back to 17 rounds now takes that pressure off to not have to deliver 22 games.

"We'll just see how that unfolds."

With AAP