Football Victoria last week gave clubs the opportunity to decide their short-term future without penalty.
The state body announced that there would be promotion this year throughout the leagues but no relegation.
FV’s “Guiding principles for the resumption of football in Victoria” was generally well-received and for the most part took an even-handed approach when weighing up the federation’s responsibilities as the game’s watchdog against the responsibilities of member clubs.
However, while announcing that clubs choosing not to compete would not face sanctions the principles mandated that all clubs were “subject to the payment of their full, respective 2020 team entry/license/participation fees by 31 October 2020. This will ensure that clubs retain their league status in the Victorian football hierarchy for 2021.”
FV also may restructure the leagues shortly depending on which clubs choose to participate so it’s feasible that some clubs could be promoted even before a ball is kicked in anger.
Since the announcement FV has updated its return to training rules released a fortnight back that imposed a 10-person quota on training groups, essentially restricting them to nine players and a coach.
There were other biosecurity protocols in a comprehensive list that clubs had to implement and monitor as a necessary condition of resuming training.
From Monday 1 June training groups were increased to 20 people including coaches and support staff with a continuation of other protocols already in place.
FV has given clubs until Monday 8 June to decide whether or not they will take part in the 2020 season and already nine local clubs have indicated that they are keen to play – Mornington, Peninsula Strikers, Skye United, Frankston Pines, Baxter, Chelsea, Aspendale Stingrays, Rosebud and Mount Martha.
Langwarrin, Seaford United and Somerville Eagles are expected to reach a decision on participation this week.
For Baxter president Bray Hodgkinson it’s the unknown composition of the leagues and the season that proved to be the biggest obstacle to deciding what to do.
“We don’t know if what FV is putting together will actually operate or not,” he said.
“It’s hard for us to make any other decision without knowing exactly what everything looks like.”
Langwarrin president Tanya Wallace is among a handful of club bosses still deciding whether to proceed.
Like Hodgkinson she bemoans the fact that her club will make a decision without a better understanding of what lies ahead.
“I don’t know how many games we are going to play so I can’t even begin to look at a budget until we know that,” Wallace said.
“We can’t negotiate with anyone but we’ve still got to decide what to do by 8 June.
“I’m hoping that by next Friday there’ll be more information from Football Victoria and we’ll be able to make a more informed decision.
“Right now you’re guessing and you’re gambling and you can’t run a club like that especially a not-for-profit organisation.
“This club is all about sustainability and I’m not going to be the one who has to close the place down after 56 years.”
Langwarrin has been thorough in gathering information from parents and players over the past fortnight to enable it to have a good understanding of their willingness to participate this year.
The club arranged a survey of its major demographic – its junior NPL and community junior sections – by emailing everyone listed on its registration database and the result was an overwhelming response in favour of playing.
“Ninety per cent want to train and want to play and of the 10 per cent that didn’t want to play a few were happy to train and a few had changed their mind and didn’t want to play anymore,” Wallace added.
“Only one of our community coaches doesn’t want to come back but some of our team managers are finding it hard as they are out of work at the moment.”
Langwarrin’s NPL juniors started training last week and the seniors are due to start this week.
All of the club’s registered players had to sign a return to training agreement before being able to train.
Parents of junior players also had to sign the document which reinforced the biosecurity measures in place and encouraged everyone to sign up to the government’s COVIDSafe app.
“We wanted to make sure that people understood what’s required. We know it’s not mandatory but like Football Victoria we strongly recommend that people sign up to the app,” Wallace said.
In State 3 news Matthew “Hammer” Hames has started training with Frankston Pines.
He is a former Pines, Peninsula Strikers and Knox City player who had been working in the UK as a science and maths teacher but returned to Melbourne this year.
“I got to go to a multitude of football matches but only played socially as I was travelling so much,” Hames said.
“I’m still not sure where I’ll end up but the culture at Pines feels good and that’s important to me.”
Pines head coach Kevin “Squizzy” Taylor thinks Hames and Fijian import Tito Vodowaqa could form an effective partnership.
“Matt is proven at State League level, is good with his back to goal, and provides us with a different dimension going forward,” Taylor said.
With relegation out of the mix and the possibility that FV will be forced to revamp the leagues if clubs decide not to play this year there’s nothing to lose and much to gain for any club that is promoted to a higher league before the season starts.
That’s a prospect that Taylor is relishing and wouldn’t hesitate to accept should the opportunity arise.
“I have no doubt that we will be extremely competitive whatever league we find ourselves in,” Taylor said.
“We have added a number of quality players which has significantly increased our depth and squad balance.”
All Pines home games this year will be streamed live on the mycujoo.tv platform.
Meanwhile referees are a group that has received little comment on social media whenever the topic of returning to playing is mentioned despite their integral role in the sport.
However a current referee and a former top-flight match official who did not want to be named have both indicated that today’s refs are cautious about a season reboot.
“Most referees I know are champing at the bit to get back on the park but a lot though have concerns about safety,” said the current referee.
The former match official believes that changes to routine are inevitable if social distancing requirements are to be met.
“The referees I have spoken to have no worries about the onfield side of things but have mentioned that social distancing is a major problem with referees’ change rooms, some of which can’t accommodate three officials let alone more.
“Referee assessors and match commissioners have the same issues for post-match reviews.
“Maybe match officials have to go to grounds pre-changed and post-match stuff is conducted outside if a larger area cannot be provided.”
First published in the Mornington News – 2 June 2020