The resumption of the A-League season has been thrown into doubt after the competition’s three Victorian teams, Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory, and Western United, failed to make it into New South Wales before the border was closed to Melbourne residents.
The A-League is scheduled to return from a four month hiatus next week with teams from across the country based in a NSW hub. The first match since the lockdown is supposed to be Victory v United on Thursday 16 July.
Football Federation Australia is now applying for exemptions to allow the three teams to enter NSW for the remainder of the season, but Head of Leagues, Greg O’Rourke, has also flagged possible changes to the fixture. “We will now begin the process to seek exemptions from the NSW Government to allow the teams to enter NSW for them to continue their season,” O’Rourke said. “If we find it necessary to revise the match schedule we will do so accordingly and will announce once confirmed, however at this time the schedule remains the same.”
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro indicated his government would do what it could to accommodate the request. “I’ll be reaching out to the FFA today and seeing what they need. If we’ve got an opportunity to do so, let’s bring them across the border,” he told SBS News.
The border between Victoria and NSW closes at midnight on Tuesday 7 July, but at 6.15pm on Monday 6th the NSW government extended its definition of an interstate hotspot, meaning residents of greater Melbourne had to be in NSW before midnight to beat the ban. That news prompted players and staff from the three teams to assemble at short notice at AAMI Park. From there they travelled to Tullamraine airport to catch a charter flight to the ACT but the flight was unable to take off because of fog affecting visibility at Canberra airport.
When the fixture was announced last week, some matches did not have confirmed venues. It was initially hoped United could take on both local rivals in Melbourne before the relocation to the NSW hub but the rise in Covid-19 cases in Victoria prompted a revision of that idea.
Other professional football codes had made earlier moves to get their teams out of Victoria. The 10 AFL clubs departed for NSW and Queensland on Sunday and Monday, the NRL’s Melbourne Storm have been out of Victoria for almost two weeks, while Super Rugby’s Melbourne Rebels moved to Canberra on 26 June.