Empty stadiums a reality if coronavirus outbreak worsens
Major sports events around Australia may be played in empty stadiums if the outbreak of coronavirus continues to spread.
UPDATE: Various events have been cancelled including the F1 Grand Prix, while others will be played in closed stadiums - some immediately including the NBL GF, ODI series, AFLW and the AFL which starts next week - and others including the NRL, A-League and Super Rugby is allowing fans to attend this weekend but will be played in closed stadiums from next weekend. Future updates will be posted on this article >
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Sport around the world has already been impacted, with events either played behind closed doors or cancelled, and the situation is only worsening.
While Australia has been mostly immune to this point, it seems the situation has dramatically escalated this week and extreme measures are just about a formality.
Both the AFL and NRL have come out saying they’re prepared to play matches in empty stadiums if required. Australia’s two major football codes get underway for the 2020 season over the next couple of weeks with the NRL beginning Thursday and the AFL seven days later.
On Tuesday, AFL CEO Gill McLachlan was adamant all 198 home-and-away games would go ahead as scheduled.
“If mass gatherings are suspended then we will play games in stadiums with no crowds,” he said.
That move was strongly backed by all 18 club captains on Tuesday, who said they would be prepared to play in empty stadiums if it meant games went ahead. A significant portion of AFL players would have their pay reduced, via lost match payments, in the event games or the entire season were cancelled.
The AFL has already shifted this year's scheduled St Kilda v Port Adelaide game in Shanghai to Marvel Stadium after advice from health authorities. Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as its officially known, originated in China and has spread throughout the world.
It has been reported fan lockouts may be enforced from round 5. It would be the first time in the league’s 124-season history matches have been played in empty stadiums.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has refused to rule out games being played in empty stadiums because of fears over coronavirus.
Mr Greenberg is encouraging fans to follow the latest government health advice and to go out and watch their favourite teams.
"Everyone continue to go to public events, everyone continue to do your normal activities, but if you've got a flu or a fever don't go," he said.
The 2020 Australian F1 Grand Prix gets underway at Albert Park on Thursday and there was a scare on Wednesday evening, with three Formula 1 team members undergoing tests for the virus.
A member of English team McLaren and two members of US-based Haas were on Wednesday night taken from the Albert Park circuit and isolated in their hotel rooms awaiting test results. McLaren confirmed on Thursday evening they've been forced to withdraw from the opening GP of the year after their team members tested positive to the virus.
Meanwhile, AAMI Park is undergoing an “intensive cleaning” process after a man who attended a Super Rugby game at the ground tested positive for COVID-19.
Cleaners were focusing their efforts on the rectangular stadium’s lower seating bowl after it was revealed on Wednesday a man who contracted the virus was in the stands for last Saturday night’s Rebels-Lions match.
Officials said the stadium would be back in action this weekend when it plays host to an A-League clash on Saturday night between Melbourne City and Western Sydney Wanderers.
It's also been reported on Thursday that a fan who attended the ICC T20 Women's World Cup at the MCG on Sunday also tested positive. While it is considered low-risk, people should DHHS recommends that those who attended the event can go about their regular activities, but to monitor their health and remain mindful of their hygiene practices.
View updates on the impact of coronavirus on Australian stadiums and sports here >