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VAFA season 50/50 chance to go ahead, says CEO

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The Victorian Amateur Football Association’s season is in doubt and restrictions on crowds will be the biggest sticking point when the board meets on Monday afternoon.

On Saturday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced public gatherings would be slashed from 20 to 10 from Monday, which would dent AFL Victoria’s hopes of hosting crowds at local footy from late July.

Junior sport can begin from Monday, while contact training in senior sport can start from July 13, with matches from July 20, but restrictions on crowds will make it difficult for sporting clubs to remain financially viable.

VAFA chief executive Brett Connell said he was 50/50 on whether a season would get up this year.

“We’re unknown about crowds; that’s the only piece that will affect us in terms of community participation,” he said.

“People can go out there and run around. July 13 we can have contact, we’re a fair way away from that, crowds are probably still a bit unknown for most of us.

“We’ve got to jump over a few hurdles before we get there. We’re all in the business of giving people a game of footy but we’ve got to make certain the health and safety of individuals are paramount.”

The VAFA is working towards a July 25 season launch.

But if five of the VAFA’s nine board members decide on Monday to pull the pin on the season, the decision will be taken out of the hands of its clubs.

Meanwhile, Western Region Football League powerhouse Deer Park, winner of seven consecutive Division 1 premierships, were among the community clubs to pull the pin on their season over the weekend.

The club cited the strain on volunteers as the leading reason behind its decision to withdraw. Roxburgh Park (Essendon District Football League) and Chelsea (Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League) have also withdrawn.

Deer Park, coached by former Essendon player Marc Bullen, have withdrawn from the WRFL in 2020.
Deer Park, coached by former Essendon player Marc Bullen, have withdrawn from the WRFL in 2020.CREDIT:MICHAEL COPP

EDFL chief executive Ian Kyte said he would have liked Roxburgh Park “to hang off” until his board had met this week before withdrawing, but his remaining clubs will get more information this week.

“Every club will make their own decision,” Kyte said. “They’re not compelled to play. It’s not like Roxburgh Park is taking it away from us, all clubs will make their own decision and we might take the decision out of their own hands. Either way you go, there’ll be clubs set and ready to play and others that I think would still be considering it.”

Deer Park president Matthew Pratt said his club was left with little option but to withdraw from the WRFL, but the league would have his full support to play in 2020 without the Lions.

“We have no issue with any other club playing because I think everyone needs to assess things off their own basis, based on their own demographics and their own circumstances,” Pratt said.

“Some clubs, demographically, are in a better position in terms of player numbers and others not so.

“A lot of [our players] have to make a decision between work and playing footy. When they played footy they were able to offset some of that opportunity to work, but with no remuneration for footy, they either have to make a decision between getting paid [to work] or earning no money [playing footy] and then the risk that comes with that in getting injured.”

Pratt said the strain on volunteers also compounded the issues around returning to play. He added that players that wanted to play in 2020 would have his blessing to find a new club.

Written by: Swanny

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