No fans No play

THE Sunraysia Football Netball League (SFNL) season will not go ahead if social distancing laws remain in place.

SFNL president Paul Matheson said unless the Victorian Government lifted all restrictions on community gatherings, no football or netball would be played in Sunraysia this year.

Club presidents voted unanimously to support the decision during a specially convened phone hook-up with league officials on Wednesday night.

“We simply will not play if there are any restrictions in place around crowd numbers — simple as that,” Mr Matheson said.

“The club presidents are all fully supportive of the decision and it’s our opinion we have a social responsibility to the community not to determine who and who can’t attend games — so no crowd, no play.”

The SFNL season had been put on hold until at least May 31 as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic but, as case numbers flattened, optimism had grown about a potential start.

In recent weeks AFL Victoria had proposed a June 6 start could be possible for community football if, on May 11, the Victorian Government relaxed its strict social distancing laws.

Mr Matheson said while he appreciated the SFNL was affiliated with AFL Victoria, it was not required to take direction from it.

“It is obviously a little bit different for us because we are an independent league,” he said.

“While we are affiliated with the AFL, the decision rests solely with the board — the Sunraysia Football Netball League board.

“We are unified clubs. We are a football and netball league and that makes it difficult when we deal with the AFL — AFL are only in control of football.

“We identify we are family clubs and people have sons and daughters who play both sports — the parents volunteer for both sports.

“For clubs to be as successful as they are, it is a total commitment by the whole family unit, so the decision we have made — and will always make — is both sports being one entity.”

Mr Matheson said the financial impact of games being played without crowds had been something the league and presidents had discussed, but did not ultimately influence their decision.

“Our clubs can afford to play and it just goes to show how resilient and how financial they are,” Mr Matheson said.

“I wouldn’t think there would be too many leagues across Victoria, let alone Australia, who could proceed without an income.

“Even though (clubs) have made a decision they don’t want to proceed without crowds, they could proceed if they had to.

“It would obviously be a big strain on the league and club finances, but how many leagues and clubs have finances in today’s environment? I would tend to say the ones run by the AFL don’t.”

The SFNL board will meet on May 6 to officially ratify Wednesday’s decision.

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