Explained: Why we had to postpone the Melbourne Derby

The Isuzu UTE A-League Melbourne derby will be pushed back a week after weeks of discussions to have Melbourne Victory’s Asian Champions League match next week moved to a new date and location were unsuccessful.

The Asian Football Confederation has ruled that Victory must play their play-off against Vissel Kobe next week as originally planned, notifying Football Australia overnight that the request to move the game had been unsuccessful.

It means the A-League derby against Melbourne City will now be played on Saturday March 19, a week later than planned.

Victory and the A-League had argued for weeks since the play-off dates were set that they should be allowed an exemption to the AFC’s so-called “Matchday -3” rule which stipulates that clubs have to depart for a Champions League game at least three days beforehand.

With Victory due to play in the city of Kobe on Tuesday night, the club were initially confident that they would be allowed to depart after the derby and arrive in Kobe on Sunday – until they were advised three weeks ago that the vaccination conditions of entry were changing for Japan.

Victory were advised these were new Japanese government requirements for the club to skip quarantine, only coming into effect last week; the alternative was to arrive on Matchday -3 and fulfil mandatory testing.

Given the Japanese government’s new vaccination requirements, the AFC was asked to move the game back closer to the group stages, which kick off on April 15, and order it be played at a neutral location.

Late on Monday, though, the AFC declined the request, forcing Victory to depart on Friday to be able to play Vissel Kobe on Tuesday.

A-Leagues Commissioner Greg O’Rourke acknowledged that the derby postponement would cause disruption for fans of both teams, but said the change in Japanese government regulations had created a unique situation.

“It’s a perfect storm in that Victory are playing in Japan, where the vaccination requirements have just changed, on a date that creates a clash with their A-League game,” O’Rourke said.

“If they were playing in a different AFC member country this wouldn’t have been an issue, and we have tried hard to secure an exemption to avoid these changes.

“Sadly our efforts were not successful, and so the derby will now be played on March 19.”

Other fixture changes

Meanwhile, this weekend sees a number of fixture changes for the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Friday night’s clash between Sydney FC v Western United has been postponed. They, along with Melbourne City, Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariners have had changes made for this weekend.

The matches between Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix, Macarthur FC and Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets remain unchanged.

Finally, the scheduled match between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory on Saturday 19 March at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium has been postponed. An update on this match schedule will be made in due course.

In the Liberty A-League, it was confirmed that the first weekend of the Liberty A-League Finals Series will see Sydney FC host Melbourne City on Friday night at Netstrata Jubilee Oval (7.05pm), while Adelaide United take on Melbourne Victory on Sunday at Coopers Stadium (4.05pm).