The Australian rules football season will commence on Thursday despite the coronavirus outbreak.

The AFL has announced the opening fixture between Richmond and Carlton at the MCG will take place behind closed doors on Thursday evening.

It has also been confirmed that quarter length will be reduced to 16 minutes in the coming campaign, while the season had already been trimmed to 17 rounds from 22.

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AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the league had come to its decision after “wide consultation” with Australia’s chief medical officer and government representatives.

He told a press conference: “We embark on this journey with clear instruction from the government that all industry and all parts of society need to keep moving forward and we simply cannot stand still.

“We must go forward day by day listening to the advice and continue to make the best decisions for our industry while balancing well-being, welfare, leadership, and economic and social impacts.

“We don’t know how many games we will get into this 153-game journey before we have to pause.

“But what I do know today is I feel comfortable with the government and medical advice, and the support of our presidents, CEOs, players and coaches.”

PA

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