“If players became ill, then there may be the possibility where a number of games may be compressed into a shorter period of time, say over two or three weeks, which would be extraordinary.”
Pavlich urged footy fans who showed no symptoms of the virus to still attend AFL games while they could.
“If you’re of good health then go to the footy, support your team, get along there, barrack with all your heart but of course be extra vigilant with your personal hygiene,” he said.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan confirmed on Tuesday that fans could be banned from attending matches if governments or health bodies banned mass public gatherings because of the outbreak.
“If mass gatherings are suspended then we will play games in stadiums with no crowds,” he said.
That move was strongly backed by all 18 club captains on Tuesday, who said they would be prepared to play in empty stadiums if it meant games went ahead. A significant portion of AFL players would have their pay reduced, via lost match payments, in the event games or the entire season were cancelled.
The AFL has already shifted this year’s scheduled St Kilda-Port Adelaide game in Shanghai to Marvel Stadium in Melbourne after advice from health authorities.
McLachlan said the league was well-placed financially to deal with any impact from coronavirus, which as of Sunday had claimed three Australian lives.
Self-quarantined Fremantle player Sam Switkowski, who had flu-like symptoms and feared he could have contracted the virus from a friend who had recently visited China, was cleared by medicos on Tuesday.
Pavlich, 38, spent time on the AFL Laws of the Game Committee and is a former AFL Players Association president who is now 9 News Perth’s sports presenter.
In Italy, soccer fans were banned from attending the top-tier Serie A fixtures long before the entire country was placed in lockdown on Tuesday.
The prestigious Indian Wells tennis tournament in the US was also postponed due to coronavirus fears after officials initially considered banning crowds, while the Formula One race in Bahrain on March 22 will proceed without spectators.
The AFL has told clubs it was business as usual but expressed their players and staff be increasingly vigilant about hygiene, while other clubs have asked staff who have travelled to specific countries recently to stay away.
Richmond this week joined Greater Western Sydney in closing access to visitors to the football department and the club as a precaution.
The AFL is on record as saying it would be guided by government but has now taken extra steps to investigate the fallout from cancelling the entire 2020 season.
McLachlan told The Age recently the AFL was better placed to deal with any economic fallout from the spread of the virus because of its position as a domestic competition that wasn’t as exposed to global supply chains and partnerships.
A working party has been formed to develop contingency plans for the AFL with McLachlan adding that the league’s future fund would help them cover the financial damage of playing in crowd-less stadia.
The AFL has modelled the financial impact of having no crowds at games but McLachlan would not say how much cancelling a typical round of football would cost.
“Our first priority is to do everything we can to keep the community safe and well,” he said.
MCG chief executive Stuart Fox said the ground was still planning around all major events going ahead.
David writes about sports and lifestyle for WAtoday.