The AFL will delay until Wednesday a final decision on whether to play its opening round of the 2020 season.
After another full day of meetings and phone hook-ups with government officials, clubs, players and medical experts, the AFL Commission on Tuesday evening again deferred its decision.
Richmond is scheduled to play Carlton at the MCG on Thursday night as the season-opener, and the Western Bulldogs are to host Collingwood at Marvel Stadium the following night.
The AFL is now committed to making a decision on Wednesday about the full set of round one matches – and, in the event of a cancellation, effectively a minimum of five rounds beyond round one – and not wait until the actual day of the season-opening game.
It has analysed every possible scenario in the days leading into the scheduled season start, knowing that there are no guarantees on a resumption of play after the ultimately inevitable decision not to play is made, whenever that decision falls, be it before or sometime after round one.
On Monday, the AFL decided to reduce from 22 to 17 the amount of matches each team would play in the 2020 season, as part of contingency plans to negotiate a way through the widespread carnage attached to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.
The AFL Players Association had convened a series of communications with its players on Monday evening. Players union boss Paul Marsh relayed to the AFL on Tuesday that a clear majority of players had factored in all available advice and were prepared to play in this weekend's round of matches.
It has been known since last Friday that the matches would be played in empty stadiums, after the Federal Government banned mass gatherings of more than 500 people as part of plans to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Some AFL clubs have today revealed that they have been told the government could soon significantly reduce the number of people allowed to attend mass gatherings, which could actually make it impossible to stage AFL matches.
The United States government on Tuesday morning ruled that all gatherings beyond 10 people were to be banned due to the coronavirus outbreak.