The Wellington Phoenix have confirmed they intend to play out their A-League season in Australia but coach Ufuk Talay says a sensible outcome would be to suspend the competition.
- The Phoenix want the FFA to consider suspending the competition because of the coronavirus pandemic
- The club has committed to staying in Australia during the coming weeks, although the players will be subject to 14 days of self-isolation
- They sit third on the A-League ladder and are chasing a first championship title
The third-placed Phoenix will fly to Sydney on Tuesday and are committed to being based in the city for at least six weeks, as they bid to clinch a maiden title in a competition thrust into chaos by the coronavirus.
Talay’s team and their opponents in Wellington this evening (local time), the Melbourne Victory, will both need to undergo a mandatory 14-day period of self-isolation under the border restriction rules introduced by the Australian Government soon before kick-off.
Wellington will be unable to play away fixtures scheduled for next week — against Sydney FC on Wednesday and the Newcastle Jets on Sunday — while Victory’s next two matches against the Brisbane Roar and the Perth Glory will also need to be rescheduled.
Both teams would likely emerge from isolation to face a jam-packed schedule until the end of the regular season.
Talay said it would make sense for Football Federation Australia to suspend the A-League for a period of time.
He said such a move would allow all teams to take stock and compete on a level-playing field while authorities gained a clearer picture on virus containment.
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“I believe it needs a break to let this settle down … and I think everyone knows what they need to do moving forward,” Talay said after his team’s 3-0 win over the 10th-placed Victory in Wellington.
“I just think common sense should prevail. The first thing to the forefront should be player safety.”
The Australian Government’s decision to introduce the period of isolation has not gone down well with at least one of the Victory’s players.
Captain Ola Toivonen took to Twitter to voice his confusion about the Government’s announcement.
“Friday we were promised, by the Australian Government, that there would be no ramifications returning to Australia on Monday,” Toivonen tweeted.
The Victory released a statement this evening saying they would “comply with the necessary protocols” when they return to Australia on Monday.
Talay said he needed to learn more about the logistical requirements of self-isolation.
He understood his players could train together as they would have travelled as a group, as long as sessions were not in a public place where they could come into contact with anybody from outside the group.
Phoenix general manager David Dome said before kick-off in Wellington that no players had been forced to commit to the Australian mission.
But Talay said he had buy-in from them all when the subject was raised after the match.
The one question mark could be over former Socceroos defender Luke DeVere, whose wife is due to give birth within the next two weeks.