READ MORE - BFNL: 2000s v 2010s - vote on the match-ups
READ MORE - How is your club faring in the Addy Iso-Season
AFL CENTRAL Victoria commission chairman Nicholas Rolfe says there is no right or wrong approach for leagues that have either called their season off or are still clinging to a glimmer of hope that football-netball will be played in 2020.
The Heathcote District league was the first in the region to abandon its 2020 season due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent health and safety risks, plus the continued uncertainty around return-to-play dates and whether crowds would be allowed.
The regions's three other senior leagues - Bendigo, Loddon Valley and North Central - are still pressing on with the prospect that a shortened 2020 season may still be possible, with no decisions yet made.
While the AFLCV commission is leaving it up to the leagues to make their calls on their season, Rolfe is concerned those still a chance of playing are continuing to face a multitude of unanswered questions on top of having to meet the AFL Victoria and government safety protocols.
"At the moment there's ongoing problems with insurance. We haven't been able to get any clarification around who and what is covered in case there is someone who contracts the virus either as a result of playing or being a club official because it's not an injury," Rolfe said this week.
"There has been a circular put out by local governments relating to use of grounds, so there's another layer of regulations clubs have to comply with before they can start playing, plus the requirement for each club to have a COVID Safe officer."
A COVID-19 memo from Marsh, the insurer for the AFL National Risk Protection Insurance Program, states clubs and leagues "must consider its risk response to COVID-19 and take all reasonable steps, at their own expense, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including following the advice, recommendations and rules of federal and state governments and Departments of Health. Failure to do so could result in the club/ association having no cover under the Public Liability policy."
"My own personal view is that unless you can get clarification on the insurance it's problematic whether they can play. And the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to play," Rolfe said.
"The longer it drags on the less likely players are going to want to play because fitness levels at the start of this were very good, but some players will retain it, while others will be a little iffy in terms of not being quite as dedicated to the cause.
"The other thing too is that we've now come into winter, so are you going to be keen to start in July?
"The other great unknown is the virus seems to be under control in the sense that it's not spreading, but there's some talk that there could be a second wave as a result of the onset of winter.
"You could then get to a stage where you start and then have to stop. If I had the call, I would think if you can't start by the first weekend in July, I'd be saying no. I just think there's too many unknown answers to a whole lot of questions and every week is obviously getting harder.
If I had the call, I would think if you can't start by the first weekend in July, I'd be saying no. I just think there's too many unknown answers to a whole lot of questions and every week is obviously getting harder.Nicholas Rolfe
"I would think that if you can't play a complete round (all teams play each other once) it's not worth playing in its current format, so then do we have an under-age competition that is played over a number of weekends or an FA Cup style last-man standing?"
Meanwhile, Rolfe says it's not the role of the commission to make the to-play-or-not decision for leagues.
"We can tell the clubs that it's our view that they shouldn't play this year, but we don't have the power to enforce that on anyone.
"The wants and needs of different leagues have to be satisfied for what they believe is best for their league.
"If leagues think they can run a viable competition within the timeframe under the guidelines proposed by the state government, well so be it.
"But it's the great unknown. It's a great idea to play provided no-one gets sick, but if someone becomes ill then it could be a disaster too because football and netball thrives on social contact.
But it's the great unknown. It's a great idea to play provided no-one gets sick, but if someone becomes ill then it could be a disaster too because football and netball thrives on social contact.Nicholas Rolfe
"Competitions have been called off before as a result of war and this is a situation that if it's not controlled the repercussions could potentially be horrendous.
"I would think leagues are doing the best they can under a difficult set of circumstances... what could a league possibly be doing that they're not doing?
"It's not a situation where there's a right answer or a wrong answer because we're all controlled by what the government says."
Meanwhile, the LVFNL held a board meeting on Tuesday night, with a decision on the future of the 2020 season to potentially come late next week.
"Nothing has changed with us, we're waiting until next week to catch up again with the presidents," LVFNL chair Simon Tuohey said.
A report in The Age earlier this week states AFL Victoria has asked for a "clear road map" from the state government on return to play for community participants by the end of this week.
Both community football and netball teams in Victoria are now allowed to train in groups of up to 20, but still without contact.
Meanwhile, Melbourne's Northern and Eastern leagues announced on Wednesday that they are cancelling their competitions for 2020.
The leagues both said "that cancelling their senior competitions is the only viable decision that will ensure the long-term stability of their clubs and leagues."
FULL STATEMENT FROM NFNL WEBSITE:
The Northern Football Netball League (NFNL) and Eastern Football Netball League have today jointly announced the decision to cancel their senior football competitions for season 2020.
The NFNL and EFNL Boards endorsed the recommendation from league management to cancel all senior football (including seniors, reserves and under-19s) for both men's and women's competitions.
Both leagues remain committed to conducting junior football competitions in 2020. The NFNL is also committed to conducting its netball competitions.
Both Leagues have been in constant communication with their respective clubs, the other major metropolitan leagues and AFL Victoria throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent feedback from senior clubs indicated an overwhelming wish for the future of the 2020 season to be determined without further delay. Both the NFNL and EFNL believed that cancelling their senior competitions is the only viable decision that will ensure the long-term sustainability of their clubs and the leagues.
The NFNL and EFNL have the health and safety of not only their participants but the wider community at front of mind in making these judgements.
Both leagues have a clear obligation to protect players, coaches, volunteers, officials, umpires, staff, supporters, and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other concerns raised by senior football clubs were: the fiscal burden that playing just half a season would bring; the number of additional requirements for volunteers; the inability to effectively manage crowds to comply with current social distancing rules and crowd restrictions at public (often unfenced) venues and not wanting to play matches without their local community being able to attend without restriction.
The ongoing uncertainty around season 2020 has been a major concern for clubs as they sought clarity, which we have now been able to provide.
NFNL CEO Peter McDougall said the NFNL had conducted a lengthy and thorough consultation process with all of its key stakeholders prior to making its decision and was committed to beginning 2021 with all of its clubs in the strongest possible position to succeed in the long term.
"The NFNL has maintained a view throughout this process that we do not want one club to come back next year worse off than they are now," McDougall said.
"All clubs were aware of the challenges associated with managing a reduced season under COVID-19 rules and restrictions and were very open, balanced, and frank about where their club sat.
"Clubs expressed concerns about their financials, player numbers, committees, older volunteers, crowd restrictions and their inability to manage crowds at open public spaces.
"We must make decisions based on what is best in both the short and the long-term. The information we have gathered from our clubs together with the latest medical advice, has determined that cancelling the senior football and netball competitions in 2020 is the only viable option.
"The health and safety of the community and club and league sustainability have always been our top priorities."
The NFNL and EFNL are both committed to working closely with AFL Victoria and all member clubs to manage the associated issues related to the cancellation of all senior football competitions in 2020 and will now begin working with clubs towards a return to the field in 2021.
A final decision on junior football and netball competitions and their 2020 structure will be released as additional social distancing and health protocol updates come to hand.
These announcements will be made over the coming weeks, but for now we move forward with a return to training being the key first step to seeing junior football and netball resume in 2020.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.