AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has sensationally slashed the length of the 2020 men’s AFL season due to the on-going COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to media a short time ago, McLachlan confirmed that, no matter what, the 2020 men’s season will now consist of 17 rounds, down from the previously-planned 23.

McLachlan was at pains to stress that this plan gives the league the “flexibility” to deal with the COVID-19 crisis as it evolves and progresses rapidly over the coming weeks.

However, he did not confirm whether or not the first round of the season, which is due to start Thursday, will go ahead as planned. A decision and announcement on that is expected tomorrow, after league officials have had a chance to discuss the plan with the AFL Player’s Association in a conference call planned for later this evening.

The new structure of the season will see each of the league’s 18 men’s sides play each other once only, with the re-jigged fixture to maintain its first four rounds of matchups as is currently planned, followed by a re-shuffled last 13 weeks.

At this stage it’s still not known when the season will kick off, although a reduced season structure indicates that the AFL now plans to launch the season some time around May.

Initially, the league had planned to kick the season off as-normal with fans locked out of stadiums and teams playing to empty stands.

That plan now appears to be out the window.

McLachlan did not comment on the future of the on-going AFLW season, which has two rounds and a two-week finals series remaining in its schedule.

Image: Getty Images / Quinn Rooney