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Southern league pushing on with July 25 kick-off, AFL Vic says crowds are permitted

The Southern footy league is sticking with its intended starting date as AFL Victoria says spectators can attend games as long as they comply with social distancing rules.

Bayside Leader | June 25, 2020 10:30am

Play on.

The Southern Football Netball League says its position remains unchanged and it’s aiming to start its season on Saturday, July 25.

The SFNL board met on Tuesday night and resolved to push on, despite the extension of Victoria’s state of emergency until July 19. League officials are linking up with clubs from all four divisions this week.

Southern’s stance comes as AFL Victoria said this morning that crowds could attend matches but spectators must “be strictly compliant with government directions and restrictions’’.

They “should be in groups of no more than 10 people in open, outdoor venues and spread out around the ground or venue’’ and be 1.5m apart.

“Gathering limits will not apply to participants and those reasonably necessary to conduct the training or competition (e.g. umpires, coaches),’’ AFL Victoria said.

“Where venues allow for vehicle access surrounding the oval, spectators are encouraged to remain in their vehicle (subject to Government advice regarding risk for spectators viewing from vehicles, e.g. cohabiting family/household members only).’’

Clubs will be responsible for spectators observing social distancing. AFL Victoria gave no information about a cap on crowd numbers.

The Southern league clubs will be asked to decide by Friday, July 3 if they want to take part in the season.

“With all the facts we have at hand, nothing’s really changed from the intention to start om July 25,’’ SFNL CEO Lee Hartman told Leader.

“We’re still pushing for that date.

“The information is being explained to the clubs over the next two nights and then they’ll have the option to enter teams or not.’’

He said the dates previously announced for the return of contact training, July 13, and matches, from July 20, hadn’t changed.

Hartman said he believed there was still an eagerness to play.

“From the calls I’ve taken today, there’s positivity that we’ve actually made a decision now (restating July 25),’’ he said.

“I think if we had asked for extra time to make a decision, that would have been the end of the road. But with the board making a decision, should the government allow us to play on July 25, that’s what we’ll be doing.’’

Hartman said no club had officially withdrawn from the proposed season but he would not be surprised if “a handful’’ pulled out for 2020.

“That’s probably to be expected,’’ he said. “But the phone calls I’ve taken, have all been positive and the players are keen to keep training and work towards to play.’’

The clubs will be able to bring in players on a new “COVID-19 Type 2 permit’’, which was brought in on June 22 to allow the movement of players — on loan — from leagues and clubs that won’t be playing this season.

It will apply until July 31.

On November 1 players who had transferred under permit will revert back to their original clubs.

Of Southern’s neighbouring leagues, the VAFA says it will make a decision on the season on July 6, the Mornington Peninsula is working towards a July 25 start and the AFL Outer East is expected to make a call early next week.

There is increasing speculation AFL Outer East will scrap the season but offer clubs a round-robin tournament.

Meanwhile AFL Victoria this morning released updated return-to-play protocols, reaffirming the key dates of July 13 and 20.

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