Victoria’s two biggest suburban football competitions have cancelled their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, casting further doubt on any community leagues taking to the field in 2020.
The Eastern and Northern leagues intend to push ahead with their junior competitions, but all senior football and netball has been abandoned this year.
The EFNL and NFNL confirmed it would be too difficult financially and logistically to stage games amid coronavirus restrictions, and club volunteers needed certainty.
Almost all community football leagues and clubs agree it would be impossible to run a season without crowds contributing to canteen and bar sales.
“Both the EFNL and NFNL believe that cancelling their competitions is the only viable decision that will ensure the long-term sustainability of their clubs and the leagues,” a joint statement read.
“(The leagues) are both committed to working closely with AFL Victoria … and will now begin working with clubs towards a return to the field in 2021.”
The powerful metropolitan leagues join country competitions Kyabram District, Heathcote District and Millewa in pulling the pin for 2020.
EFNL boss Troy Swainston said the overriding view of its 45 clubs was not to risk the long-term future of the competition.
“All clubs were aware of the challenges associated with managing a reduced season under COVID-19 rules,” he said.
“Clubs expressed concerns about their financials, player numbers, committees, older volunteers, crowd restrictions and their inability to manage crowds at open public spaces.”
AFL Victoria this week announced updated training protocols allowing two groups of 20 participants on one oval.
However, there has been no indication when mass gatherings will again be permitted and would allow spectators at community sport.
The only senior league that appears a chance of happening is the Victorian Amateur Football Association, which is far less reliant on gate takings.