'Distractions are deadly': 'Horrible' truth about AFL's suspension

The decision to suspend the AFL season has rocked footy fans but it was an inevitability that highlights a glaring truth for many observers, with regard to the COVID-19 crisis.

Once more and more Australian states decided to close their borders in response to the global pandemic - the AFL, more so than other Aussie footy codes - was left with little choice but to call a halt to its season after just one round.

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AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan admitted it was the "biggest financial crisis" the game has ever faced.

"It's a challenge, but we'll get there," McLachlan said.

"The federal treasurer today gave some comfort for businesses for the next six months, which is a start, and we're obviously working collectively to secure liquidity so that we protect the AFL and all our 18 clubs.

"That's what we've been working on over the last week."

The Melbourne Demons lost the last match of round one before the AFL season was suspended. Pic: Getty

BBC broadcaster Chris Mitchell called the AFL competition "a lovely distraction" while it was going ahead, but one that was also problematic.

It was a way for people to forget - even just for a short time - about the global crisis that has turned our lives upside down.

Mitchell insists that many Aussies identify with the AFL's leadership more than their own Prime Minister's and by pushing on with the season - when competitions around the world are suspended - the sport was sending the wrong message around the coronavirus pandemic.

“Australians will listen more to the AFL than to ScoMo,” Mitchell tweeted.

“That’s why it must stop now.”

“It’s horrible because it was a lovely distraction, but distractions right now are deadly.”

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was one leading figure within the game who suggested the AFL needed to respond to the crisis more seriously.

“I’m not sure we’re taking social isolation as seriously as we need to," Clarkson said.

McLachlan has been praised for the leadership shown in shutting the AFL competition down, with pressure now mounting on the other Aussie codes to make the same call.

‘Nightmare scenario’ threatens futures of smaller clubs

McLachlan believes the league and all of its 18 clubs will survive despite being forced to put the season on hold until at least May 31.

Football industry finances will suffer significantly from the global impact of COVID-19, with Brisbane chief executive Greg Swann revealing the Lions are set to lose $5 million in gate takings.

Port Adelaide boss David Koch said this week calling off games would be a "nightmare scenario" which might lead to financially weaker clubs folding.

Some, such as St Kilda, are already in massive debt and several are heavily reliant on AFL funding to stay afloat.

McLachlan admitted it was the "biggest financial crisis" the game has ever faced.

Clubs already in debt like St Kilda could be hit particularly hard by the AFL's season suspension. Pic: Getty

"It's a challenge, but we'll get there," McLachlan said.

"The federal treasurer today gave some comfort for businesses for the next six months, which is a start, and we're obviously working collectively to secure liquidity so that we protect the AFL and all our 18 clubs.

"That's what we've been working on over the last week."

McLachlan said clubs would announce within 48 hours "drastic and immediate measures" to cut costs within 48 hours.

They have already put their state league programs on hold and face the prospect of mass staff redundancies.

"This is a very human part of the business and this virus is taking a very personal toll physically on many people and will continue to do so," McLachlan said.

"But the economic cost and the livelihood cost is significant as well.

"We've got to stay united and work through it as a community in whatever industry you're in."

With AAP