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Wimmera Mallee football netball clubs push back on starting a season without fans


Football and netball clubs across Victoria’s west and north-west are concerned what starting a season without fans could mean for the future of clubs in the region.

The consensus from clubs is the season should only start if fans were allowed to attend games.

AFL Victoria has recommended leagues postpone their seasons until at least the end of May.

A return to training and competitive games will only be confirmed once social distancing measures are eased.

An update from the Victorian Premier on that is expected on Friday.

Fans vital for social, financial reasons

The president of the Irymple Football Netball Club in north-west Victoria said without fans and gatherings there was no point starting a season.

“We don’t think it’s viable without people there,” Dennis Mitchell said.

Mr Mitchell said clubs in the Sunraysia league could survive financially without fans if games were to go ahead this year, but not if it continued into 2021.

But he said playing without fans also does not make sense from a social point of view.

“Anything from training nights, Thursday night meals, to under-10s on Saturday mornings — none of it is viable without people.”

Ouyen netballers celebrate A Grade premiership in 2019.
Ouyen netballers celebrate winning the 2019 A Grade premiership. All Sunraysia league clubs agree the season should only start if fans are allowed.(ABC Mildura-Swan Hill: Christopher Testa)

‘Irresponsible’ to play without crowds

The president of Horsham District league club Edenhope-Apsley agreed that without fans clubs could not survive.

“You couldn’t have any games without a crowd,” Carolyn Middleton said.

The manager of AFL Wimmera-Mallee, the AFL body that coordinates 11 Horsham District league clubs and nine in the Wimmera league, said all clubs in the region are on the same page.

Jason Muldoon said it could be ‘irresponsible’ for clubs to play a season without crowds.

“I think that’s probably being a little bit irresponsible if we allow that to happen,” he said.

“At the start of this we wanted our clubs and umpiring group to survive, and if we go ahead and do that, that may be in jeopardy.

“But this is something we have to deal with as things change.”

AFL Victoria has recommended leagues cut clubs’ salary caps by half to help ease the financial burden.

“Salary caps will be cut further depending on how many games are played this year,” Mr Muldoon said.

Border clubs facing added level of uncertainty

For clubs situated near or on state borders, they are also having to work their way around border closures.

Border Districts Football Netball Club is based across two towns on each side of the border — the Victorian town of Goroke and Frances in South Australia.

Club president Linda Skinner said the club came under the South Australian National Football League body and was waiting to hear how the season would unfold.

“I’m not sure how it will work. If you live close to the border you can cross for appointments. But whether they class football as essential I don’t think that would be allowed,” she said.

Ms Skinner said the senior and reserves football sides rely on players on either side of the border.

“We would get about eight players from South Australia just in the seniors,” she said.

She said the club would definitely not be able to field teams with just Victorian players.



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