Football Victorian A-League clubs in limbo after travel fiasco
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Victorian A-League clubs in limbo after travel fiasco

Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City, along with Western United, have been unable to fly out of Victoria for two straight nights. Photo: AAP
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Victoria’s three A-League teams remain stranded in Melbourne after plans to fly players and staff to Canberra fell through for the second time in as many days on Tuesday night.

The remainder of the season is now largely at the mercy of the NSW government as attempts to relocate Victoria’s three teams drags into a third day.

FFA had sought border closure exemptions from the NSW government for players and staff to travel interstate after the clubs did not leave Victoria before the midnight Monday deadline for Melbourne residents.

On Monday, poor visibility at Canberra Airport prevented a late-night flight to the ACT, with players and staff left on the Tullamarine tarmac.

A day later, the three clubs aborted plans to travel to Canberra again.

In farcical scenes, the teams were on buses waiting to enter the Melbourne Airport hangar on Tuesday night when they were informed they would have to complete a 14-day hard quarantine in the ACT, during which they would be unable to train, if they landed in Canberra.

Western United’s Alessandro Diamanti said the teams were kept waiting for an hour and a half on the buses as they awaited an update.

Western United’s Alessandro Diamanti and Besart Berisha posted on Instagram about the difficulties. Photos: Instagram: @Alino_diamanti_ And @Besartberisha08

Victory, City and United will instead stay in Melbourne while they await the NSW government’s call on exemptions.

“We are in discussions with the NSW Government, and we will continue to seek the exemptions necessary for the teams to travel,” A-League boss Greg O’Rourke said in a statement late on Tuesday night.

“Given the strict league and club protocols our teams have been following since 2 June 2020, combined with the fact we have not had any players or high performance staff return a positive COVID-19 testing result, we feel that we have a very good case to gain the exemptions and get the teams to NSW to complete the Hyundai A-League season, and we will make every attempt to do so.”

On Tuesday, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro indicated the state government would work with the FFA regarding exemptions – though they have not been confirmed.

United are currently scheduled to play Victory on July 16, then City four days later.

The A-League’s precarious situation is not one shared by the AFL, NRL and Super Rugby, who all made earlier moves to get their respective teams out of Victoria amid the state’s coronavirus spike.

Getting out of Victoria on Tuesday ‘just not possible’: A-League

The 10 AFL teams, the NRL and Super Rugby had made earlier moves to get their teams out of Victoria amid the state’s coronavirus spike.

“We did absolutely everything we could to get the players and staff out of Victoria by midnight tonight [Tuesday], but in such a rapidly evolving situation, unfortunately it was just not possible,” A-League boss Greg O’Rourke said.

“We are in discussions the NSW Government, and we will continue to seek the exemptions necessary for the teams to travel.

“I’d like to sincerely thank the players, their families and staff from the three clubs for their understanding and commitment this past 24 hours.

“The disappointment of getting prepared to travel out of Victoria to prepare for the restart not once but twice has been most frustrating for them and we can assure them, the clubs’ members and fans that we are all committed to overcoming this evolving challenge and to play football again.”

On Tuesday, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro indicated the Government would work with the FFA to help the Victorian clubs cross the border into their NSW hub.

“You’ve heard me on the NRL and the importance of sport and I think we’ve got to work with the FFA, so I’ll be reaching out to the FFA today and then see what they need,” Barilaro said.

“Of course, if we’ve got an opportunity to do so, let’s bring them across the border, let’s park them in the regions or here in the city and make sure they’re part of the A-League that kicks off shortly.

“We’ll work through it. I think there is a real opportunity to do it. The exemptions exist and we’ll work with health officials as we’ve done previously with all the other codes.”

Western United chief executive Chris Pehlivanis was optimistic of securing an exemption.

“The discussions have already started,” Pehlivanis said on Tuesday afternoon.

“Now in terms of timing, we’re not sure — it could be quick, it could be a couple of days — but we’re planning to be there [in NSW], subject to government.”

-with agencies