Grassroots football in Australia will be suspended until April 14 in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Just over 24-hours after announcing that grassroots football was set to continue under new guidelines designed to reduce the risk of virus transmission, the FFA has now reversed course and confirmed that all grassroots football - including National Premier Leagues, FFA Cup, youth and footballing activities under FFA jurisdiction such as MiniRoos and futsal – will be suspended from midnight on March 18.
This suspension also extends to footballing related activities such as training sessions.
“Our decision today follows extensive discussions with all of Australia’s nine State and Territory Member Federations, taking into consideration the latest feedback from all levels of the football community,” FFA CEO James Johnson said.
“We are also taking into consideration the ongoing response by both the broader international and Australian communities which is evolving almost on an hourly basis now.
“We also recognise that there have been some recent material developments which have changed the landscape significantly, including the decisions made by the Victorian and ACT Governments to declare States of Emergency late yesterday afternoon.
“Today, more schools, universities and also public sporting facilities have announced that they will be closing so we have had to respond quickly to this.
“It is very regrettable that grassroots football will not proceed for the next month, but as a good and responsible citizen, we recognise that our game of approximately 1.96 million participants, has a significant role to play in slowing the spread of the virus.
“More Australians play grassroots football than any other team sport in the country and we have been able to listen to the voice of our community, through the establishment of the National COVID-19 Working Committee and our Guidelines, who have expressed a desire to contribute more to the nation at this time through a unified and Whole of Game response.
“As a game, we need to be responsive and agile in how we deal with this situation, and we are working together around the clock to deal with this challenge. We will continue to assess our position regularly to ensure that it is reflective of the most accurate state of affairs and views of the game.
“I would like to acknowledge how Member Federations have worked so constructively with FFA, through the Working Committee and established Guidelines, to arrive at what is right for our players, coaches, officials, their families and the wider community.
“We are meeting on a daily basis and will continue to do so, taking into account the latest Government medical advice and community sentiment.”
The move to continue to play grassroots football in the face of the ongoing spread of COVID-19 on Monday was met with widespread criticism, the Association of Australian Football Clubs calling for the suspension of all NPL competitions.
After FFA’s announcement this morning regarding impact to leagues/next steps, AAFC Chairman Nick Galatas is liaising with FFA and Member Feds to ensure NPL fixtures do not proceed across Australia while clubs cannot earn revenue but costs continue.— AAFC (@AAFClubs) March 16, 2020
Will provide more info ASAP.
In response to the community discontent and evolving situation surrounding the virus, the FFA convened a meeting with the newly formed National COVID-19 Working Committee and with representatives of Member Federations to adjust their position, leading to the change in policy.
“FFA recognises that this is very disruptive for the football community and we thank you for your understanding while we work through this difficult time,” FFA said in a communique with footballing stakeholders.
“FFA will continue to closely monitor all COVID-19 developments in consultation with the Federal Government and its National COVID-19 Working Committee and will provide updates to the football community as the latest information becomes available and in advance of 14 April 2020.”
The announcement by the FFA leaves the A-League and the W-League Grand Final as the only football still set to be played in Australia in the coming weeks.
Wellington Phoenix will fly from New Zeland to Australia tomorrow and base themselves in Sydney in order to complete the season after coming to an agreement with state-based health officials that will allow them to train while in isolation.