In light of positive indicators from Federal and State governments and the FFA, Football Victoria has encouraged Victorian clubs to begin to prepare for a resumption in footballing activities.
Victorian football, as it is across all of Australia’s Member Federations, has been suspended since March 17 in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, with that hibernation extended in April to at least the end of May.
These suspensions have hit member federations and a number of their clubs hard; their seasons – in contrast to the A-League – only in their infancy when they were forced to halt.
Federations have been forced to stand down significant numbers of staff in the face of the crisis, while clubs across the country have voiced concern about its effects on their financial viability.
However on Wednesday morning, the FFA, in affirming its support for the government’s COVIDSafe app, announced that the production of guidelines was underway.
“FFA continues to liaise with governments and medical experts to pave the way for the return of community football,” FFA CEO James Johnson said.
“We have produced a set of Guidelines, including protocols and measures to be put in place to ensure a safe and responsible resumption of the game.
“The Guidelines are being reviewed by senior health officials and will be used by our nine Member Federations to guide a return to football, taking into account the relevant regulations and health advice in each state and territory.”
Though the Victorian state government has resisted calls to loosen measures designed to fight the disease in a similar manner seen recently in other states, it has earmarked that some easing restrictions may start on May 11 – when a state of emergency in the state is set to expire.
Premier Daniel Andrews has previously told ABC Radio that “low risk” activities such as sporting activities and the number of people allowed to gather were among the first measures that are likely to be eased in the event of restrictions being eased and the National Cabinet will discuss the return of sport – both professional and community – on Friday.
Victoria has recorded1354 cases of COVID-19, with 18 deaths – a woman in her 80s the latest death recorded overnight – and 1280 recovered cases so far in the state. 23 people are currently hospitalised with the disease, while three people were confirmed to have contracted the disease overnight.
“Our Federal Government has made the resumption of schools and community sport a priority once it is clear that the worst of the pandemic is behind us,” Football Victoria CEO Peter Filopoulos said.
“If the numbers keep improving, and we have a sustained period with no new cases, we expect that there will be a gradual re-introduction of community-based activity, of which football is a central part.”
“Our NPL and Community clubs have been absolutely fantastic in the way they have navigated this period. The way the football community has banded together, followed the rules and committed to staying the course during this difficult period has shown the collective strength of our game.”
In light of the promising indicators surrounding the fight against COVID-19, Football Victoria – which has planned for numerous scenarios surrounding the return of football that include possibly extending the season all the way to December – said that clubs should begin to plan for football’s return.
“Our transition to closing football down was extremely difficult and we know it’s not as simple as flicking a switch – there’s a huge number of issues to consider for every club, and no two clubs have the exact same set of circumstances,” Filopoulos said.
“However, now that things are improving, our information from higher authorities is that clubs should start discussing plans for how they will approach the resumption period. It’s also possible that training – or modified training – may be permitted before competitions are allowed.”
“We are in the advanced stages of scenario planning regarding a return to football and have worked through several different competition models at both NPL and Community level. We’re looking forward to sharing these with our clubs when we have a clear idea of the resumption date.”