Sport Football Hub option remains as A-League shoots for July 16 restart

Hub option remains as A-League shoots for July 16 restart

Newcastle’s Dimi Petratos and Melbourne City’s Josh Brillante battle for the ball in the A-League’s most recent match in March. Photo: AAP
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A-League players will undergo COVID-19 testing on Monday, as clubs plan to return to training this week in preparation for a July 16 restart.

While the FFA is still deep in talks with broadcast partner Fox Sports over a revised rights deal, most clubs are expected to be back in training on Tuesday or Wednesday.

FFA head of leagues Greg O’Rourke said with proposed extensions to player contracts only running until the end of August, the need to get the resumption process started is pressing.

“The schedule that we’ve shared with the clubs … is to start the first game on Thursday the 16th of July and finish that a month later and then one week for finals,” O’Rourke told AAP.

“If the negotiation took longer than that, then we’d have to rethink the contract term, but at the moment the contract term is for three months and that’s our intention.”

Despite a report the players union had made an eleventh hour demand to alter previously agreed player entitlements, O’Rourke expects the FFA and the PFA to finalise their negotiations early this week.

The situation with Fox is more complex.

The host broadcaster currently pays $57 million annually to the FFA for the A-League rights, as well as broadcasting of Socceroos and Matildas matches.

It’s understood the pay TV company is seeking a significant reduction on that amount and Perth Glory owner Tony Sage hinted last week the 2019-20 season should just be abandoned if a deal can’t be reached.

O’Rourke said the season’s future wasn’t completely dependent on reaching a deal with Fox, but it was still the FFA’s intention to find a resolution.

“I wouldn’t say wholly (dependent), but I would say that it is more than likely that the best solution for us would be to go forward with Fox,” he said.

“If we were to find an alternate provider it would probably take some time, but our intent is to work with our current broadcaster and our current contract and get them to broadcast the rest of the season.”

Currently, league organisers have two versions of the schedule for the remainder of the season, dependent on the state of border restrictions when the competition does resume.

The first model will have all 11 clubs based in a NSW hub, playing games in Sydney and Newcastle.

The second model would allow Victorian clubs to play in their home state, while Adelaide and Brisbane could also play at home.

Under both models Wellington Phoenix and Glory would be based in NSW.

O’Rourke said a proposal has been made with NSW health authorities to create a COVID-19 quarantine facility for Phoenix at the Football NSW headquarters in Sydney.

The arrangement would be similar to that used by the NRL for the Warriors in Tamworth and would allow Phoenix to train during its 14-day quarantine period following travel from New Zealand.

Glory will be based in NSW purely due to logistical demands, with the league planning to play 32 games in just 36 days.

-AAP