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Community football could return next month after easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria

The patience of several community football leagues could be rewarded with COVID-19 restrictons set to be eased next month. This is the date local footy in Victoria could be back.

Paul Amy and Luke D’Anello, Sunday Herald Sun

The waiting game is over for local football.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Sunday morning that competitions could kick off from July 20.

And he said contact training could start from July 13. He named the dates as part of a further easing of restrictions for the coronavirus pandemic.

“Local footy teams, soccer clubs and other contact sports will be able to resume training for over 18s from 13 July. And from 20 July, full competition can begin too,’’ Mr Andrews said in a statement.

“Supporting this gradual return to sport, clubs and community facilities will also be able to reopen their changerooms.’’

Southern Football League chief executive Lee Hartman said the news was “fantastic’’ and “exciting’’ for local leagues and players.

He said they had been patient and now had a “roadmap to get things started’’.

“It’s great the State Government has come out and given us those two key dates, for contact training to resume on July 13 and play to resume a week later on July 20,’’ Hartman said.

“That would potentially allow us to start on July 25 if all goes well.’’

But Hartman said leagues would need to wait for AFL Victoria return-to-play guidelines in relation to crowds and the use of facilities.

“Before any decisions are made we need to work through that and see how it looks,’’ he said.

“July 25 is six weeks away from today. Those are discussions for the next few weeks, but it’s nice to get some clarity around the dates.

“We’ve been patient. We knew a window of opportunity was always going to present itself in July, whether it was mid-July or late in July.’’

The decision comes after community leagues were given approval from Cricket Victoria to extend their seasons into October.

It means leagues could kick off on August 1 and complete a nine-week home-and-away season and three-week finals series by the weekend of October 17-18.

Clubs have been conducting non-contact training in groups of 20 in hope of a return to the field.

The Essendon District, Western Region and Southern leagues have also scrapped player payments for 2020 in a significant move, while the Victorian Amateur Football Association does not pay players.

Three-time Keilor premiership coach and Collingwood champion Mick McGuane backed the decision to have a zero salary cap.

McGuane said the sustainability of all clubs had to be top priority amid the coronavirus crisis.

“For the competition, we had to start the discussion at the club saying, ‘We can’t survive’,” McGuane said.

“Without that club, we’ve got no competition.

“We could play tomorrow and pay our players, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for the greater good of the competition.

“As much as we feel for our players during this time that they’re not getting remuneration for their services, we also understand … once we get back to normality, because we’ve sacrificed now for the greater good, you or the next player coming in can be of benefit in two or three years’ time.

“Greed can often kill. If we lose two or three clubs that try to remain viable … it just will destroy competitions.”

It is understood more than 80 per cent of clubs across the EDFL and WRFL favour a season going ahead if they are able to generate game-day revenue by having crowds and the health protocols do not put undue pressure on volunteers.

Seventeen senior competitions across Victoria have cancelled their seasons, including Melbourne’s Northern and Eastern leagues.

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