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Australian sports move to shut out fans

Australian sports move to shut out fans

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Australian sporting codes are shutting out fans after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the Formula One grand prix and other events.

The NRL will stage games from next weekend in empty stadiums after the federal government announced a ban on non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people, effective Monday.

The AFL’s men’s and women’s competitions will also be held with no fans attending.

Basketball authorities closed the NBL’s grand final series to spectators from Friday night’s game two.

Rugby union’s Super Rugby games in Australia will follow suit from next weekend while swimming’s hierarchy called off next month’s national championships.

Australia’s men’s cricket team began a one-day international against New Zealand in an empty Sydney arena on Friday, hours after the Australian Grand Prix became the first sporting event in the country cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Organisers stopped the season opener while spectators were queuing to enter Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit, their call coming after 14 people linked to the grand prix were tested – one, a McLaren team member, returning a positive.

Supercars races were also cancelled, while Super Netball’s pre-season tournament later this month was scrapped.

Australian sports had no choice but to follow leagues around the world in holding games without spectators or suspending competition after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the ban on non-essential mass gatherings.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said Friday night’s matches would proceed with spectators but round two games would be held in empty stadiums.

The AFL’s men’s premiership season will start as scheduled next Thursday night without fans attending – the same scenario for the AFL’s women’s competition.

“The landscape is changing quickly; each organisation has their own set of challenges but our clubs, players, officials and fans know that the health and safety of all is the number one priority,” AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said.

Rugby Australia’s chief executive Raelene Castle said fans were allowed into Super Rugby games this weekend but would be banned indefinitely from the next round.

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