Coronavirus: AFL season to kick off Thursday in empty stadiums

The entire AFL season - even the Grand Final - could be played without crowds, as the 'Aussie Rules' competition kicks off amid the coronavirus crisis.

Reigning premiers Richmond will host Carlton at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Thursday night's season-opener, with AFL boss Gillon McLachlan declaring the 17-round fixture list "will not look like any other".

Matches will be played behind closed doors indefinitely, with shortened 16-and-a-half minute quarters, plus time-on.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a range of new measures, including a ban on all non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

The Government's measures could last up to six months or more, meaning the whole season could be played without spectators, which would be a giant financial blow to the league, clubs and players.

"It depends how this plays out, but it [no crowds] feels like it's a possibility," says McLachlan. "I think it's going to be a long year, and our players and industry want to get moving. 

"[The players] know this is going to be a long journey in what is an unprecedented time."

The first four rounds will be crammed into a quicker time frame, with the season under constant threat of shutting down.

The competition will be immediately postponed, if any player or official tests positive to coronavirus.

McLachlan says the AFL has yet to decide on a schedule past round one.

"Things have been changing fast," he says. "We'll get away this weekend and then we'll be working through it as we roll through the weekend.

"Tonight, it's appropriate to continue and we know it's something that's reviewed every day."

On Monday night, 88 percent of AFL players voted in favour of starting the season this week, despite the outbreak of COVID-19, which has sporting leagues and events around the world to shut down.