The A-League has suspended its 2019-20 season, following the AFL and NRL in shutting its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Football Federation Australia will reassess the decision to postpone the season on April 22
- FFA said the decision was made due to logistical concerns, not health advice
- James Johnson said the FFA would need to make “difficult decisions” to stay financially viable
Football Federation Australia (FFA) boss James Johnson said the decision to immediately postpone the rest of the season with six rounds to go was “very difficult and tough”.
“Football comes to you today with a united voice. This is a unanimous decision of the FFA board, but it is also the unanimous decision of the A-League clubs,” he said.
Mr Johnson said the decision was made in consultation with the national working committee, including the players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia.
The FFA will reassess the decision on April 22, with Mr Johnson cautiously confident the league will be able to reach its conclusion.
“We are optimistic. It is a postponement,” he said.
“We want to ensure that the players’ mind frames are that the league will resume as soon as possible.
“But the truth is, we don’t know how this virus is going to move.
“The decision to postpone is in line with other leagues around the world.”
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Mr Johnson credited the players, saying they had been “fantastic”, and said the clubs tried “everything possible” to ensure the games could be played.
“To get so close to completing the season is certainly a disappointment, and to miss out by a few short weeks is heartbreaking for the players, the clubs and also the fans.”
‘Mission complicated became mission impossible’
The A-League moved to playing matches behind closed doors a little over a week ago, with New Zealand-based club Wellington Phoenix relocating to Sydney in a bid to avoid travel restrictions.
Clubs and officials had hoped to play a condensed season, resulting in a plethora of fixture changes as officials attempted to cram the remaining six rounds of football into a three to four-week window.
However, that move was stymied by the necessity for Phoenix and Melbourne Victory players to observe 14-day self-isolation protocols after playing in Wellington on Sunday March 15.
Mr Johnson confirmed that the decision to suspend the league was mainly due to logistical issues and not due to health advice.
“As a national competition … mission complicated became mission impossible,” he said.
“There is no health advice that it was unsafe for the players to play.”
Mr Johnson said the FFA would have to make some “financial adjustments” in the wake of the shutdown.
“We have to ensure that the organisation gets through this financially,” Mr Johnson said.
“This is going to mean we are going to have to make some tough decisions.”
He also said the league would have a “conversation” with its broadcast partner, Fox Sports.
“The reality is, we are unable to continue with the season. That’s where we are.”
The W-League concluded its season with a behind-closed-doors grand final on Saturday, with Melbourne City beating Sydney FC 1-0 to claim its fourth championship in five years.
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‘At least we can come out and play the game that we love for one last time’
The A-League played out its last match, and the last game of professional sport to be played in Australia for the foreseeable future, on Monday night.
However, the other match scheduled to take place on Monday, between Perth Glory and Western United, was postponed after Western Australia’s Government announced it would impose new restrictions on interstate visitors.
In the game that did go ahead, Newcastle Jets beat Melbourne City 2-1 thanks to a stunning long-range winner from Steven Ugarkovic.
After the match, Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren confirmed the players were aware that the competition was likely to be suspended.
“It feels like we’ve had more meetings than meals at the moment,” he told Fox Sports.
“What’s going on at the moment, it’s hard to put into words.
“At least we can come out and play the game that we love for one last time.
“We’d rather be playing than sitting at home in isolation.”
Maclaren said the effect the shutdown would have on the future of the league was “a bit worrying.”
Amidst the uncertainty, there was still room for sentiment.
Veteran Jets goalkeeper Glenn Moss was substituted on in the final 5 minutes in order to make his 250th appearance.
The 37-year-old former New Zealand international shot-stopper planned to retire at the end of this campaign.
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