The A-League and W-League will continue to be played despite the coronavirus outbreak, with games taking place in empty stadiums, Football Federation Australia (FFA) has said.
- The A-League and W-League season will continue, but crowds will be banned from attending
- Wellington will be based in Australia from this week, but first will observe a two-week quarantine period
- Lower-level football will also continue without supporters
FFA chief executive officer James Johnson told reporters in Sydney on Monday the game was facing an “unprecedented challenge” and further measures may be enacted in the future as the situation developed.
“This is an unprecedented time and extremely complex for the sport and also the society at large,” Johnson said.
“We anticipate further decisions as the days and weeks go on because we really don’t know how this virus will evolve.”
The FFA also confirmed New Zealand-based club Wellington Phoenix would be based in Australia for the duration of the season, most likely in Sydney.
However, the club will be forced to spend 14 days in quarantine in line with new government regulations.
Phoenix’s next two fixtures, in rounds 24 and 25, will be rescheduled, as will those of Melbourne Victory, who return to Australia later on Monday after playing in New Zealand on Sunday.
The clubs aren’t allowed to train during the 14-day isolation period and face the prospect of playing four games in a two-week span at the end of the season.
“It’s not helpful … but both of those clubs are very much willing to participate,” FFA’s head of leagues Greg O’Rourke said.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
Six rounds remain in the A-League before the finals. Wellington currently sits in third place on the 11-team ladder.
O’Rourke added there was a possibility of compressing the remainder of the season in order to ensure it was completed.
“We’ve got 30 matches left. Six competition rounds to go,” he said.
“It is our intent to compress the rest of the season, and we have spoken to the clubs and are now speaking to the venues to discover whether it is possible for us to complete those six rounds in three to four weeks.
“These are part of the mitigations we are putting in place.
“We think at this point in time this is a better solution, with the facts we have in hand, rather than suspend it and work out what will happen in a health situation in months to come.”
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
O’Rourke said if a player tested positive to COVID-19, the league would reassess its plans.
“If somebody connected with a squad … gets diagnosed with COVID-19 then we will have to abide by whatever the health restrictions are that are advised to us at that time,” he said.
The W-League grand final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC this weekend will proceed as scheduled but behind closed doors.
All lower-level soccer leagues in Australia such as the NPL and under-age competitions were permitted to continue without spectators and with enhanced hygiene protocols.
“If you are not essential to the participation, please stay at home,” Johnson said.
“As a sport, football wants to be a good citizen and wants to play our part in helping the community during this difficult period.”