While he did not address the possibility of games being affected, the AFL’s understanding, based on government advice, is that there is only a very low risk of games being cancelled or planned without spectators, as has happened with soccer games in Italy’s north, where the virus has been more widespread.
“We take advice from the federal government, the relevant organisations,” he told The Age. “At the moment, the advice is, as recently as yesterday from our prime minister, is to keep going about our business. You obviously look at what’s going on.
“Right now, I can’t wait to get to the football tonight,” said McLachlan, who was speaking late on Friday before the bushfire appeal game. “And you know we can only deal with where we are at the moment. We take the advice of those in charge.
“Exposure for us is limited. Things may change. Because we’re a domestic game and, at the moment, the coronavirus has implications for those with supply chain or international links and that’s not where we’re at.
“So as we sit here today, without looking too far into the future, our economic exposure is limited. We look to the federal government and the relevant interested bodies for advice and, you know, until that changes, that’s where we’re at.”
The panic gripping much of the world about the virus did not deter more than 51,000 fans from attending the state of origin game between Victoria and the All-Stars team on Friday night. The AFL’s major corporate partners – NAB, Toyota, Virgin, Coca-Cola, Telstra, Coles, Marsh and BHP – are secure on largely long-term deals, although there are some clubs with small sponsorship exposure to China.
The St Kilda-Port Adelaide game, scheduled to be played in Shanghai, China, in late May is under threat, however, and is most likely to be relocated back to Melbourne.