A-League considers delayed start to season

The A-League is prepared for the possibility of delaying the start of the upcoming season amid NSW and Victoria’s ongoing coronavirus outbreaks and lockdowns.

October 30 has been earmarked for the A-League season opener, with the W-League to kick off two weeks later.

But with eight of 12 A-League clubs based in Victoria and NSW, and a desire to play games in front of crowds, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) is set to make a call this month on whether to push that back until after November’s international break.

“At the end of this month, the end of September, we’re going to need to make a call on whether we push it back,” APL managing director Danny Townsend told AAP.

“Now there’s a natural window to look at – pushing back to potentially after the first international window (November 8-16). 

“But even still, those things are definitely not decisions that we need to make right now. We’ll just continue to monitor things and act appropriately when we can.”

Townsend said new broadcasters Network Ten/Paramount Plus were “flexible” and “pragmatic” with competition start date and hadn’t set a hard deadline on games getting underway.

The AFL and NRL seasons have been significantly disrupted by coronavirus outbreaks and lockdowns but Townsend said given the A-League’s later season date, there was optimism time was on football’s side as vaccination rates ramp up.

“Going from lockdown to lockdown without a clear path out of this is challenging for anyone running a professional sporting league,” he said. 

“But when you see that there is a strategy there to get vaccinations to 70 and then 80 per cent, they are within the time frame that we have to launch our season.

“So we’re not making any drastic commitments, one way or the other at this point in time. 

“We’re just sensibly, watching and learning and engaging the government and the health authorities to ensure that we get our season off to the best start, and we’re really focused on ensuring that fans are available in stadiums to enjoy our game. 

“You only get one chance to re-launch your code. We’re going through that the moment.”

Wellington remain in New Zealand, which has closed its travel bubble with Australia, with the APL in ongoing discussions with the Phoenix about the upcoming season.

Townsend conceded a decision on whether the Phoenix would again move to NSW was a complicating factor in terms of getting the season under way as scheduled.

He was optimistic large-scale hubs wouldn’t be required again but said the league was taking a “never say never” approach.