As Victorian football slowly begins to stir to life as COVID-19 restrictions ease, its two biggest historical clubs – South Melbourne and Melbourne Knights – have split over its resumption.
In duelling statements released on their respective club websites on Wednesday night, South became the third NPL Victoria club – after Hume and Green Gully – to publicly announce their support for the resumption of the 2020 season and a return to training, whilst the Knights outlined that their senior, junior and Miniroos sides would not be returning to the practice field under the modified conditions outlined by FV.
“We feel that it is extremely onerous to re-commence training and implement the myriad of restrictions that have been outlined within the advice provided by Football Victoria at this time,” Knights’ statement read.
“Whilst we would all welcome a return to normal training and competition, our primary responsibility is our duty of care to our community to ensuring that we keep all our players and their families safe during this pandemic.
“Having regard to the safety of our players, coaches, volunteers and parents during this global pandemic and after reviewing the guidelines, we have come to the decision that it is in the best interests of all, that we await further lifting of restrictions before we re-commence training.”
According to the Knights’ communique, there were six primary factors behind the Sunshine-based club’s determination that a resumption of training was not suitable.
- The guidelines announced by Sports and Recreation Victoria (SRV) do not allow for full-contact sports to resume.
- The current guidelines provided by Football Victoria based on SRV’s recommendations have modified training sessions which allow only for small groups of 10 (on half a pitch minimum) and essentially only for passing and shooting drills while practicing social distancing – no game training, heading, throw-ins, tackles allowed.
- Onerous administrative obligations have been placed on the clubs in relation to keeping full registers of attendance, deep cleaning required for both equipment and facilities.
- Unclear as to insurance coverage provided by Football Victoria to players, volunteers and club directors in relation to COVID-19
- 100% responsibility placed on clubs by both Football Victoria and Councils in relation to any COVID-19 outbreak.
- The risk on the club’s reputation regarding player safety during these uncertain times.
Knights earmarked a review of their decision would take place following an anticipated further downgrading of COVID-19 related restrictions in Victoria following May 31, and highlighted that a survey would be sent to players and their families in the coming days to gauge their opinions on a return to training.
Knights are understood to be one of a number of top-tier NPL Victoria clubs that have expressed reservations surrounding a resumption of the senior season in 2020, with AAFC Chairman Nick Galatas previously telling FTBL that clubs felt "that the resumption and conclusion of the 2020 senior men's NPL competition isn't financially viable."
South conversely, were named by FV CEO Peter Filopolos as one of four clubs – the others being Hume, Gully, and Eastern Lions – that were in favour of concluding the Victorian top flight in 2020 in an interview with The Age on Tuesday - which the club confirmed in their own statement penned by President Nicholas Maikousis.
President Nicholas Maikousis provides an update for the whole #SMFC Family on the recent activities of the club and our contribution to plans for the resumption of competitive football in 2020— South Melbourne FC (@smfc) May 20, 2020
Read more: https://t.co/ju0XW8d1RO pic.twitter.com/Dyo3or65od
“Our primary purpose of SMFC as a football club is to play football, it is fundamentally why we exist, our DNA,” the statement read.