Vic A-League clubs cleared to go to NSW

The A-League restart will go ahead as planned with three clubs stranded in coronavirus-hit Victoria granted government exemptions to travel to NSW.

GEORG NIEDERMEIER of the Victory controls the ball during a Melbourne Victory A-League training session at Melbourne, Australia.
GEORG NIEDERMEIER of the Victory controls the ball during a Melbourne Victory A-League training session at Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The three A-League clubs stranded in coronavirus-hit Victoria have been granted government exemptions to travel to NSW.

Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Western United are still in Melbourne after two aborted attempts by the FFA to get players and staff out of Victoria earlier this week.

Late on Thursday, the FFA announced exemptions had been granted to all three clubs to allow them to travel to Sydney to complete the 2019-20 season.

All three teams will have to undertake 14 days of quarantine at an approved facility before they're able to play their matches, meaning the proposed restart fixture between Victory and Western United on July 16 will have to be rescheduled.

The league, suspended since March, will now resume on July 17 with league leaders Sydney FC taking on Wellington Phoenix at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

Before the exemptions were confirmed, FFA head of leagues Greg O'Rourke said the teams won't be able to travel to NSW until they had all returned negative COVID-19 swabs.

"Nobody for that type of application can come unless they've received a COVID negative swab in the last two to three days," O'Rourke said.

"Western United were due to get their swabs today ... we won't be able to move until the players from Western United swabs are returned and we can guarantee that everybody has a negative.

"That's sort of where we are."

Moving the teams to NSW and having them undertake an isolation period will force several matches to have to be rescheduled.

"Now that we have certainty that all our clubs will be ready for the restart, we will look to modify our match schedule accordingly to give all teams the opportunity to perform at their best," FFA chief executive James Johnson, who is understood to have personally intervened to contact the NSW government for the exemptions, said.

The 2019-20 grand final is scheduled to be played on August 23, but O'Rourke said there was scope to extend the season to August 30 if needed to ensure all the fixtures can be played.

The granting of exemptions comes after a fiasco earlier in the week when players and staff travelled to a Melbourne airport on Monday and Tuesday to leave the state but both times had to return home.

O'Rourke said the FFA had booked a charter flight on the weekend to leave Melbourne on Tuesday as it became apparent borders may be closed.

He said the plan had to be altered when the FFA received formal notification at 7.35pm on Monday that the players and staff would need to be across the border by midnight that night.

A new flight to Canberra was chartered and players and staff hastily taken to the airport only for the flight to be cancelled due to fog in the ACT.

O'Rourke said a second attempt to get players and staff out of the state on Tuesday had to be aborted when the ACT's chief medical officer declined their application to travel.

He apologised for the inconvenience caused to players and staff in twice taking them to the airport without successfully leaving the state.

"They're the ones that have been mucked around, significantly mucked around," O'Rourke said.

"They're saying goodbye to their partner and four hours later coming home. The next night the same, say goodbye to their partner - and some of them have children - and then they come home again.

"So the frustration, and some of it turned to anger, was clear.

"I get the frustration and if anyone wants to have a crack at myself. I accept that because the buck stops with me."


AAP