Football Federation Australia has extended the suspension of National Premier Leagues (NPL) and grassroots football to at least May 31 as Australian football continues to wrestle with the COVID-19 crisis gripping the globe.
The suspension of grassroots football had initially been put into place on March 17 and was set for review on April 14.
However, with Federal and State Governments continuing to impose strict restrictions on social gatherings and business operations to fight the spread of COVID-19, the decision to expand the suspension to the end of May has been moved forward.
NPL, FFA Cup, State Leagues, youth, and footballing activities under FFA jurisdiction such as MiniRoos and futsal are all included in the suspension, which extends to footballing related activities such as training sessions.
“Since our initial announcement, there have been numerous declarations made by, and introduced, across all levels of Government,” FFA CEO James Johnson said.
“The measures have continuously tightened restrictions around community gatherings, and the measures announced by the Prime Minister recently increased these restrictions further. While we were not due to make a formal assessment until April 14, we felt it best to consider our position now in light of this most recent announcement.
“We have determined, with the full backing of all Member Federations, that the temporary suspension to sanctioned grassroots football competitions and associated training will remain in place until at least May 31.
“We will continue to stay in close communications with our Member Federations in the lead up to May 31, to ensure that the individual circumstances of each state and territory in relation to the status of COVID-19 and the measures or restrictions imposed by individual State/Territory Governments are being considered.
“These are unprecedented times and at this moment, it is very difficult to predict what further measures will be introduced, or for how much longer current measures will be in place.
“As we have done with all our decisions to date, we will remain agile and responsive to the prevailing circumstances and still remain optimistic that our Member Federations, which are already considering what adjusted competitions will look like, will be able to complete the grassroots season this year.”
But despite the extension to football’s slumber and great unknown surrounding how long the COVID-19 crisis will continue, Member Federations have remained insistent that 2020 seasons across the country will take place in their own announcements.
Football West CEO James Curtis declared “…I want to reiterate – there will be a season in 2020. We don’t know yet how it will look, but there will be football this year,” while Football Victoria CEO Peter Filopoulos said “Although the season has been delayed, our staff are still working through a number of contingencies for a re-started competition.”
While most Member Federations have fallen into lockstep with the Australian governing body over the suspension Football Queensland (FQ) has gone even further beyond, citing local factors in declaring that the suspension of grassroots football in the Sunshine State will extend to at least 30 June 2020.
“With this announcement today we can work towards the establishment of a sanctioned playing window alongside the format and delivery of competitions to commence in Queensland from July 2020, reassuring clubs of our determination to deliver a competition this season,” FQ Chief Executive Robert Cavallucci explained.
“No football activities will take place in Queensland prior to 30 June however today’s announcement will now enable clubs to progress towards a return to football when the sanctioned competition window opens, and the proposed format of competitions are announced from 1 July to 30 November.
“As part of our strategic planning for recovery, FQ has been undertaking a detailed and comprehensive review of state-wide football competitions including league structures for 2021 and beyond. We are continuing to look closely at the structure and delivery of football operations across the state and reviewing our governance model.”
The suspension to football has hit Member Federations – whose season, in contrast to the A-League, was just beginning when the COVID-19 crisis hit – hard, with a number already forced into restructures.
The latest domino to fall arrived soon after the grassroots suspension extension, with Football New South Wales announcing that the majority of its employees would be stood down and the salaries of those remaining reduced from April 4.
“It is incredibly distressing for all of the hard-working staff at Football NSW to be informed of the decision,” FNSW CEO Stuart Hodge wrote in a letter to members.
“Our staff are incredibly passionate about the game we all love, and they often go above and beyond to deliver programs that benefit our entire football community.
“Football NSW will constantly review its position to maintain ongoing support for our Associations and Clubs, and the overall football community, during this challenging period.
“As challenging as this situation is, I am heartened by the support the football community has shown to each other. It is important that we continue to look out for each other during these difficult times and pull together.
“We know how important it will be for communities that football can be played as soon as possible.”