To say it’s been a big week in Australian and international sport is an understatement. Whilst a lot of the media has focused on AFL, and to a lesser extent the NRL, one needs to remember the A-League is also in disarray due to COVID-19. We all heard of the Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix players who are now self-isolating and feeling “dudded” by government officials.
There game was on Sunday night in Wellington and with this pandemic moving so quickly the Australian government moved 10 minutes before kick-off to have all people returning to Australia after midnight on Sunday evening in isolation. They were apparently promised by DFAT that they would be able to return safely, however due to the change in government travel restrictions, are now forced to self-isolate for 14 days. Had they not had this assurance, they either wouldn’t have travelled to the game, or ensured they had earlier flights back.
At the time of writing, A-League players will be on standby for the rest of the season to play games with minimal notice, as efforts get under way to finish the competition before the coronavirus infects key personnel.
Five games will be played behind closed doors between this Friday and Monday, despite Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory having been placed in isolation, and coaches have been told to expect games to flow every three to four days as a rolling draw unfolds from then on.
Fixtures from the final rounds have been brought forward, with Newcastle playing Brisbane on the Gold Coast on Friday night before racing back to host Melbourne City on Monday.
City will themselves have played the Mariners on Friday, while the Sydney derby remains on Saturday night. The Sky Blues are then likely to play again on Tuesday or Wednesday, needing eight points more to be certain of winning the Premier’s Plate. All games will be behind closed doors, with only “essential personnel” allowed into stadiums.
Incredibly, Wellington Phoenix arrived in Sydney on Wednesday afternoon to isolate themselves at a sporting facility, where they can train, eat and sleep away from the public until April 1st.
Though a draft schedule for the rest of the season has been pencilled in, league and club officials have agreed to confirm it almost on a daily basis, particularly if and when issues such as finishing in the top six begin to get resolved.
The plan is to essentially play the remaining 31 matches of the regular season in a condensed period by bringing forward matches from later rounds. Fixtures will be scheduled on a rolling basis, that is until player or key personnel contract the virus.
Across the league players have been given strict protocols to follow, which amount to voluntary isolation away from their teammates and immediate family.
At a time when football fans around the world, and especially in Asia and Europe, are starved of football to watch, many behind the scenes are advising that this is the ideal time to get the A-League on screens and tablets in as many places as possible across the globe.
Watch this space as it is a fast-moving environment.
Last week’s games:
For what it is worth football was played in Australia last weekend.
Perth Glory travelled to Sydney at Jubilee Stadium on Saturday. This was an end to end game and amazing was a nil all result.
Brisbane Roar defeated Central Coast Mariners 1 nil.
As expected, Wellington Phoenix easily accounted for Melbourne Victory 3-0.
Melb City hosted Wanderers for a 1 all draw.
And a resurgent Newcastle defeated Adelaide United 3-0.