Matthew Wade, David Warner and D'Arcy Short. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Matthew Wade, David Warner and D'Arcy Short. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Aussie sport should be cancelled immediately

Australian sport's response to the coronavirus is under fire as our codes resist calling off games.

A host of international competitions have already made decisions to suspend their seasons.

America's National Basketball Association and National Hockey League pulled the pin in the past 24 hours and Major League Baseball has cancelled spring training. Spain's La Liga and the ATP tennis tour have also hit the pause button.

Australia is now waiting for a response from the AFL, which is scheduled to start in Melbourne on Thursday, and the NRL, which opened its season in western Sydney last night and has games scheduled across this weekend.

Australia and New Zealand have discussed playing today's one-day cricket international in Sydney in an empty stadium but there's been no official announcement. There's also been silence from the FIA about whether this Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix will go ahead in Melbourne despite several reports its already been postponed.

One of Australia's leading infection control experts, Professor Bill Bowtell said it was time to stop everything.

"The grand prix should be cancelled if it hasn't been already. The NRL season should be cancelled. Are you seriously suggesting (government) ministers should be saying to the Australian people 'it's business as usual ... go to the grand prix'?" Bowtell told the ABC.

"Facts and evidence dictate these mass gatherings should not take place. We must bring down the rate of new infections of coronavirus in this country and we should do so in the next hours and days."

CRICKET

Our cricketers have a three-match ODI series against the Kiwis, with games scheduled in Sydney on Friday and Sunday, and Hobart next Friday.

The teams are then scheduled to play three T20s in New Zealand but all matches remain in doubt as the virus impacts the sporting world.

The New Zealand Herald has reported the prospect of closing tonight's match in Sydney to fans was discussed at a meeting of players and management overnight.

Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket are expected to engage further this morning.

AFL

At this point the AFL is taking similar action to the NBA, which attempted to respond to the virus by limiting access to its players for media and fans before suspending its season when a player tested positive.

AFL players are bracing for the very real possibility of the 2020 season being postponed amid growing concern over the coronavirus outbreak.

In line with professional sporting competitions around the world, the AFL is considering a range of contingency plans, including playing matches behind closed doors.

PA president Patrick Dangerfield told reporters on Thursday he believed the Richmond-Carlton season opener would go ahead as planned on March 19. But he has also considered the prospect of the season being put on hold.

AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield. Picture: Sarah Matray
AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield. Picture: Sarah Matray

"We'll still, as players and as clubs, plan for what was always going to happen in round one," Dangerfield said. "I still think that happens. Whether there's an adjustment, who knows, but it's difficult to ascertain what the future holds."

Six clubs are scheduled to travel interstate in round one and PA chief executive Paul Marsh said the organisation was involved in discussions with the AFL about potentially chartering private planes.

They could be required to avoid exposure to the coronavirus and ensure matches go ahead. "That is something we need to resolve in the next few days," Marsh said.

The AFL social media team seems oblivious to what's happening.

NRL

The NRL issued a set of guidelines to all 16 clubs on Thursday outlining how to restrict access to dressing rooms and interaction with fans.

A subcommittee of senior club figures and CEOs is being formed to formalise a detailed plan on how the league will respond if matches have to be played in empty stadiums or cancelled.

FORMULA ONE

Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix is set to be scrapped.

Two senior F1 sources told the BBC the majority of stakeholders were in favour of calling off Sunday's race in Melbourne and a decision had been made at 2am on Friday morning.

Earlier in the day McLaren pulled out after one of its team members tested positive for the virus.

The FIA is yet to release a statement and fans have begun arriving at the track this morning for practice sessions.


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