Sport Beyond borders, A-League gets ball rolling for 2020-21 season

Beyond borders, A-League gets ball rolling for 2020-21 season

Sydney FC’s Ryan McGowan tackles Melbourne City’s Connor Metcalfe in August’s A-League grand final. Photo: AAP
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Perth Glory chief executive Tony Pignata is confident Western Australia’s border restrictions will be eased in time for the start of the new A-League season.

The draw for the 2020-21 A-League season was announced on Tuesday, with matches scheduled across five states including WA.

Queensland’s announcement that it will open its borders to all of New South Wales from December 1 has removed a potential headache for the league, but the situation in WA remains uncertain.

Under current restrictions, arrivals from NSW, Victoria and South Australia must undergo quarantine when travelling to WA.

That would create issues for Glory’s season opener on January 16 against Adelaide United at HBF Park, but Pignata is backing restrictions to be lifted before it becomes a problem.

“Everything sort of points that they will be open, unless there’s another major outbreak and then things change for everyone,” Pignata told AAP.

“The plan is that … given our discussions with various states, that borders will be open by then.”

If the border restrictions aren’t eased, Pignata said Glory was open to moving into a COVID hub on the eastern seaboard as they did to complete the 2019-20 season.

He said the team would need to work out a plan by late December if there’d been no change to restrictions.

One team that will certainly begin its season affected by border issues is Wellington Phoenix.

The New Zealand side will play its home games at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium this season, although A-League officials are open to the team relocating back to Wellington should the trans-Tasman borders be reopened at some stage next year.

“This has been one of the most challenging fixture processes we’ve ever been involved in because of the continually evolving restrictions, but our priority has always been bringing the best football to fans in the safest way, working with all our stakeholders to do so,” FFA head of leagues Greg O’Rourke said.

The 2020-21 campaign kicks off with expansion club Macarthur FC playing a derby against Western Sydney Wanderers at Bankwest Stadium on December 27.

That game begins a period of 18 games in the competition’s first eight days, including a grand final replay between Sydney FC and Melbourne City at ANZ Stadium on December 30.

The season opener will also be a double header alongside the W-League’s first match of the season between the Wanderers and City, the first time both competitions have kicked off on the same day.

The league’s later start and subsequent run into the winter months has also created a challenge with access to venues primarily used by the NRL and AFL yet to be negotiated.

The situation particularly affects Western United, with eight of its home matches yet to have a confirmed venue.

Brisbane have also shifted away from Suncorp Stadium – its home ground since the inaugural A-League season – with Roar’s home matches to be played north of Brisbane at Redcliffe’s Dolphin Stadium.

All venues will have crowds, though those figures will be limited by various state restrictions.

For Glory it means its first match against Adelaide will be the team’s first game in front of home fans since 8107 watched a 3-2 loss to Melbourne City on March 8.

“Can’t wait to be honest,” Pignata said.

“It’s been a long, long time, so I’m really looking forward to playing a home game at HBF Park with our own fans and members.