Port Adelaide say they won't force their players to travel to China. Image by David Mariuz/AAP PHOTOS

Australian rules football

AFL China game decision mid-March: Port

2020-02-25 16:04:47

Port Adelaide expect a decision by mid-March on whether their AFL game in China will proceed.

Port’s fixture against St Kilda in Shanghai on May 31 is in doubt amid the spread of the coronavirus which originated in China.

“My view, I think that March is the very latest (to decide) … and I would have thought mid-March to be honest,” Port’s chief executive Keith Thomas told reporters on Tuesday.

“If circumstances are changing and looking like they’re improving, we may give it a bit more time but we’re just taking a very flexible approach at the moment.

“We are like everyone else in the world really, we are just watching it really closely.

“From our point of view, we don’t play until May 31 so we have got time and we will take our time and make what will be a very important decision.”

Thomas said his club, St Kilda and the AFL were taking advice from the Australian and Chinese governments and the World Health Organisation.

Port have played a premiership game in Shanghai the past three seasons and Thomas said regardless of the outcome of this year’s fixture, it wouldn’t alter the club’s China strategy.

“There will be financial impact if it doesn’t go ahead,” he said.

“That impact gets bigger the closer you get to the game as you start to build infrastructure around it so that’s a consideration.

“But it’s not the most important consideration.

“We see this as a short-term moment that we’re having to deal with. It doesn’t adversely affect our thinking about China as a strategy.

“It’s just a moment we’re needing to deal with like just about every other company in Australia.”

Thomas said if the game went ahead, the club wouldn’t force players to travel.

“They (players) are keen advocates for the game,” he said.

“They trust the club’s processes and that we have their best interests at heart and that we will make a decision that will in no way compromise anyone’s health.

“If we decided to make that call (to travel) and a player decided that he didn’t want to go for whatever reason, there’s no way that we force that.

“But our players have not expressed any of those concerns.”