SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s hugely popular Aussie Rules suspended its season yesterday in what it called “the most serious threat to our game in 100 years”, but rugby league vowed to play on despite tough new restrictions to contain the COVID-19.
The bombshell move by the Australian Football League (AFL) after just one match of the season, played in empty stadiums this weekend, was unprecedented.
“To say this is the most serious threat to our game in 100 years is an understatement,” Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said.
“It is unprecedented in its impact. It is unprecedented in the impact it is having on our game and the wider community. As a community and as a code, we all need to take the unprecedented and required actions to get through this together.”
A dynamic game similar to Ireland’s Gaelic football, Australian Rules is the country’s biggest spectator sport with 100,014 fans cramming the Melbourne Cricket Ground for its Grand Final last year, won by Richmond.
But there will be no more action until at least May 31 after Prime Minister Scott Morrison recommended against all “non-essential” domestic travel.
Australia had already sealed off its borders to non-residents, with more than 1,300 cases and seven deaths from COVID-19.