The AFL Has conceded it will not be able to complete a full 22-round home-and-away season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 17-round campaign locked in.
Postponing the season ahead of the opening round, scheduled to be played in empty stadiums from Thursday, is still on the cards but no decision will be made until Tuesday.
Chief executive Gillion McLachlan had been pushing to complete all 198 games before the finals to protect the league’s broadcast funds.
A fixture squeeze early in the season could take place but the first four rounds will be played as planned before a reworked fixture is implemented to ensure each team plays the other 17 once.
Rule changes surrounding the game lengths and adjusted interchange benches could yet be implemented.
The reduced season is likely to force players to take a pay cut – if they decide to press on with the season.
“It continues to be a fluid situation. We have not made a final decision on the men’s and women’s commitments for this weekend,” McLachlan said.
The players – AFL and AFLW – will be surveyed on whether they want to play on during a conference call with the AFL Players’ Association on Monday night.
“We’ll be taking on board (players’) questions and where possible answering their questions, “AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh said on Monday.
“From there we’ll feel informed about where the players sit and we’ll look to make some decisions with the AFL over the next 24 hours or so.”
A postponed start to the season would make for uncertain months ahead given governments and health officials remain unsure when the effects of the crisis will lift.
Football could conceivably be played well beyond September and into the latter months of 2020 if that is required to complete the 17-game season and four weeks of Finals.
“If it’s done by the end of September – fabulous – but if we need more time we’ll do that,” McLachlan said.
“We have flexibility now with a 17-round season that buys more time.”
If the season begins, McLachlan confirmed football will be halted for the minimum 14-day isolation period if any player tests positive to coronavirus.
“If a player was found to have coronavirus this weekend, ultimately that would mean a stand-down for the club,” he said.
“And for the integrity of the competition, we would put a standstill to the round … I think you’d have a 14-day shutdown. Whether it’s longer than that, we’re working on the details.”
Despite a report that Scott Pendlebury had tested negative for coronavirus, Collingwood have confirmed the result of his test is expected in the next 24 hours.
He has isolated himself from the club since first suffering flu-like symptoms late last week.
Meanwhile, the fate of the ongoing AFLW season will also be decided tomorrow.
State leagues around the country – the men’s and women’s VFL, WAFL and SANFL plus the NEAFL – have already been postponed until at least May 31.