Coronavirus: Australian Football League postpones season until May 31 because of COVID-19 pandemic

The Australian Football League (AFL) will postpone its 2020 season until May 31, the league announced on Sunday. All club training will be immediately suspended. The AFL Women’s season was also canceled, and no finals will be played. The decision comes after the Australian government recommended citizens cancel all non-essential travel.

The coronavirus pandemic is causing sports cancellations and postponements all across the world. Multiple states are under a state of emergency as politicians from the local to federal level along with public health officials are recommending large gatherings of people — including sporting events — in COVID-19 hotspots be canceled or closed to the public.

Prior to the AFL’s suspension, the league kicked off its season last Thursday without fans in attendance. The AFL was prepared to play their season in empty stadiums, but said that the competition will be immediately postponed if and when any player or official tests positive for the coronavirus. 

“Our industry provides livelihoods for thousands and thousands of people but our key focus at the moment – like every organization in the country – is to do everything that needs to be done to help slow the spread of this virus and to keep people as healthy as possible,” AFL chief executive officer Gillon McLachlan said in a statement, via The Guardian. 

McLachlan maintained during his press conference that the AFL still intends to play all 144 games (including finals) this season, and that the league was prepared to run as late as possible in order to complete the 2020 campaign. The AFL plans to review the current suspension length at the end of April.

“To say this is the most serious threat to our game in 100 years is an understatement,” McLachlan said.

“It is unprecedented in its impact. It is unprecedented in the impact it is having on our game and the wider community, and as a community and as a code, we all need to take the unprecedented and required actions to get through this together.”

The AFL was one of the last remaining professional sports leagues still playing during the coronavirus pandemic. Now with the AFL officially suspended, Australia’s National Rugby League and soccer’s A-League — who are both currently still playing in closed stadiums — are likely the next to announce their respective postponements or cancellations.

CBS News has the latest updates about the virus, which has affected various sports globally and in the United States and more than 10,000 people have died due to the virus. 

Here at CBS Sports, we have running updates on how sports leagues are responding to coronavirus.

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