The Bendigo Football Netball League's hopes of playing the 2020 season have been dealt a blow.
Sunday morning's announcement by the state government that the state of emergency in Victoria would extend for another four weeks until July 19 makes it more unlikely that crowds of at least 500 people would be allowed to attend community sporting events by the start of August.
Victoria has had 96 new cases of COVID-19 in the past five days, including 19 on Sunday, forcing the state government to hold off on easing some restrictions.
While the planned dates for the commencement of junior sport and contatct training for adult community sport remain in place, the amount of people that can enter private homes has been cut back to five and there was no easing of numbers that can enter pubs, cafes and restaurants.
Throughout this process all 10 BFNL clubs have made it clear that without crowds of at least 500 people the 2020 season would not be viable.
"What you have to ask yourself is - who are we servicing by playing?,'' Sandhurst FNC president Chris Greene said on Sunday.
"If the community aren't allowed in the ground we're not servicing the community.
"If it's just for the players the impost on all the club volunteers and the players to get the season up and going is really difficult if there can't be any crowds.
"Personally, and I haven't spoken to the club, if we can't get crowds to games then I don't think we can play."
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The prospect of the BFNL season starting in late July had seemed positive last week, but the extension of the state of emergency and the positive COVID-19 test of Essendon defender Conor McKenna were two negative developments the BFNL didn't need.
"Four weeks ago I was probably 60/40 to not playing,'' Greene said.
"Two weeks ago I was the other way - 60/40 to playing - and last week I was almost certain we would get up and play even though we had a lot of protocols to still go through.
"Yesterday when I heard about the Essendon player testing positive I thought we were in trouble.
"The state government can't control the protest marches and, to a degree, they can't control how many people get on trams and things like that. However, they can control sport and how many people go into venues, so they'll keep control of that."
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The positive for the BFNL is that it still has time on its side.
Under an AFL Victoria and Cricket Victoria agreement, the season must be complete by October 17.
There remains a strong possibility that not all 10 clubs would participate should the season go ahead.
If eight clubs participate the league could start a seven-round home and away season on August 8 and still have room for a four-week finals series culminating with grand final day on October 17.
Another option would be to reduce the top five to a top four and play a three-week finals series which could see the home and away season start as late as August 15.
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