Extension of state of emergency clouds return-to-play plans for local football

The Southern league says it’s prepared to wait until the ‘11th hour’ to make a decision about starting the season. But it will scrap it if crowds of at least 100 aren’t allowed.

Bayside Leader | June 22, 2020 10:30am

Southern league CEO Lee Hartman says the extension of Victoria’s state of emergency until July 19 is a setback for plans to start local football, “but we’re not throwing in the towel’’.

The news on the weekend has left officials scrambling to confirm if dates previously announced for the return of contact training and matches still apply.

They are speaking with AFL Victoria this afternoon.

The Southern, VAFA, Western Region and Essendon District leagues had all indicated they would make a call this week about whether to kick off their seasons.

The weekend’s announcement has smudged the return-to-play picture.

Southern had been aiming to bounce the ball on July 25.

“It’s obviously a setback for the whole state and for us but training can still go ahead with the same conditions (with groups of 20), so not much really changes as far as clubs’ preparation,’’ Hartman said this morning.

“They can still train.

“But obviously we need to know the dates for contact training and competition, if they change or not. That’s going to have a massive bearing on it.

“We’re meeting all our clubs this week and we’ll have further discussion around it.’’

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced last week that contact training could start from July 13 and competition matches from July 20.

“Obviously it hasn’t come at a good time,’’ Hartman said of the state-of-emergency extension.

“When we got those dates last week everyone was starting to fire up. But we’re not throwing in the towel yet. If we need to we’ll wait until the 11th hour to make a final decision. We need to talk to our clubs and see what the feel is with them. A lot will play out in the next two or three days.’’

Hartman said the league could further delay making a call about the season if the board and clubs were happy to hold off.

Frustratingly for leagues, clubs and players, the government and AFL Victoria have released no information about crowds.

The Southern league says it will need crowds of at least 100 to go ahead.

In a document outlining a return-to-play strategy, the SFNL said last week that it had to be financially viable.

“Crowd numbers and the ability to draw revenue through food and beverage sales is vital,’’ it said.

“A significant reduction in costs and player payments is required to support this.

“If restrictions of a total of 100 or under are in place senior football will be cancelled.’’

Southern, Western Region and Essendon District will apply zero salary caps should their seasons go ahead.

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