Australian rugby league to go on behind closed doors amid COVID-19 scare
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys called it "one of the toughest challenges for us to stay viable in the history of the game". "It could have catastrophic effects on us moving forward
Australia's new rugby league season will continue for the time being but with games behind closed doors, officials said Sunday, despite the growing coronavirus pandemic. There would be massive financial implications if one of the country's most popular sports was forced to shut down a season that only began this weekend. Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys called it "one of the toughest challenges for us to stay viable in the history of the game". "It could have catastrophic effects on us moving forward.
Our money will only last so long, and once it's extinguished we are in big trouble," he said Sunday. "An Australia without rugby league is not Australia," added V'landys. "Rugby league has been a fabric of our society for hundreds of years. It's people's escape, their relaxation and we need to do everything to continue that great tradition." Fans were allowed into games this weekend and round two will go ahead in a week's time, but without spectators, after the government moved to halt events with more than 500 people from Monday to counter the spread of the virus. "All decisions we make will have the safety and health of our players as paramount," said V'landys, with the situation to be reviewed next week. "We are going to review all options including isolating players or suspending the season. We've commissioned a pandemic expert and we are going to act on their advice."
The Australia-based NRL features one team from New Zealand, the Auckland Warriors. They have opted to remain in Australia despite the New Zealand government announcing all arrivals in the country from midnight Sunday, will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Rugby league's decision to press on follows rival code, Super Rugby, on Saturday announcing the suspension of their season. The sprawling southern hemisphere rugby union competition has much greater travel complications with teams, including five from New Zealand, spread across South Africa, Australia, Argentina and Japan. New Zealand abandoned their one-day international cricket series in Australia on Saturday so they could make it home before the deadline. Australian Rules Football, the country's most popular spectator sport, plans to play season-opening games next week in empty stadiums, while Football Federation Australia has said it will review the situation on Monday after top-flight A-League games went ahead this weekend. This weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne was called off Friday after a McLaren Formula One team member tested positive for the virus.
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