'Why are they the exception': AFL slammed over 'strange' virus plans

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Garry Lyon has hit out at the AFL amid reports the league will implement radical measures to ensure the season isn’t disrupted by coronavirus.

The 2020 AFL premiership season is expected to start as scheduled but fans will be locked out of stadiums indefinitely as part of the league's measures to counter the spread of coronavirus.

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The league is expected to make a major announcement on Monday about how the season will proceed, with reports they are considering asking teams to play multiple times per week in shortened games.

The Herald Sun is also reporting that the AFL won’t necessarily suspend the season if a player tests positive for the virus.

“The league is still working through protocols that could see a player testing positive immediately quarantined and the rest of the club and list tested for the virus,” the Herald Sun reported on Monday.

“If the virus had not spread to players or coaches, the season might continue without an immediate postponement.”

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan speaks to the media ahead of the 2020 season. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Garry Lyon slams ‘strange’ AFL reports

But the reported measures haven’t gone down well with Melbourne great Lyon, who doesn’t see how the AFL can possibly start the season in the current circumstances.

“Not only are we asking the players to do everything we’re asking the general members of society not to do, we’re now going to tell them to do it five times in three weeks,” Lyon told SEN Breakfast Radio on Monday.

“The question I will continue to ask – why are we playing Thursday? I can tell you why not based on everything I’ve read and learned. I’m just trying to work out why. What’s the rush?

“Back page of the Herald Sun, the AFL thinks they can play on despite a player getting tested positive. Why are they the exception to the world?

“Do you know how strange that sounds? The world is going into isolation and the AFL reckons they can push on.”

Garry Lyon isn't happy with the mooted AFL plans. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Radical measures to be implemented?

Around 90,000 fans had been expected to turn out for Thursday night's season opener between Richmond and Carlton but the MCG grandstands will now be empty.

The AFL took the step after deciding against delaying the start of the season following Friday's decision by the federal government to place a blanket ban on gatherings of 500 or more people.

However there are fresh reports that the AFL will implement more radical measures for the start of the season.

According to 7NEWS, the AFL will attempt to complete as many games as possible before any potential suspension of the season.

League bosses are said to be keen to make sure all 198 regular season games are played, but there are concerns about a forced government shutdown in June and July.

In order to counter any financial losses that a shutdown would incur, the AFL is reportedly considering having teams play four or five games in a three-week period.

That would reportedly mean games are shortened, interchanges extended and player lists expanded.

“It is important that we take the advice of those that know best and that advice right now is to continue with matches but not to host mass gatherings, which can put everyone at risk,” AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said in a statement released late on Friday afternoon.

“I am disappointed for our fans but we cannot put them in a situation that potentially jeopardises the health and well-being of the whole community.

“The landscape is changing quickly; each organisation has their own set of challenges but our clubs, players, officials and fans know that the health and safety of all is the No.1 priority.

“We are working through a major issue that impacts the wider community and we will work with all our clubs and industry partners to ensure that footy finds a way.”

AFL clubs have implemented a range of measures, including excluding fans from training and banning autographs and selfies, in an attempt to protect players and staff.

with AAP