THE Bendigo Football-Netball League intends to clamp down on who attends its junior games, with board chair Carol McKinstry saying the two competitions are not being run to provide community entertainment.
The BFNL began its shortened under-18 football and 17-under netball competitions on Saturday.
The competitions are being run under a combination of state government, AFL Victoria and Netball Victoria protocols, one of which states "only spectators necessary to support participation should attend".
While there is no cap on the number of people who can attend games, McKinstry said on Monday the league was looking at restricting spectators to purely parents of participants.
"The reason we put this season on was to give our young footballers and netballers a game. It's not about providing any community entertainment, which it seems to have morphed into," McKinstry said.
"Given the increasing number of COVID cases and deaths in Victoria, I think we're really going to need to crack down and only let parents in and make them stay in their cars because we don't want to be responsible for the spread of this virus.
"I think our club volunteers are going to really struggle to enforce the protocols, such as the social distancing, so we're going to have to bring in some much greater rules that aren't just guidelines, but are what is expected.
"In this current environment, going along to watch our football and netball games isn't appropriate to be socialising at.
"We know that people have been starved and want to go along and watch local football and netball, but our message is that unless you're the immediate family of one of the players, please, stay away."
Prior to Saturday's round one - which ended up with two football and one netball match being postponed due to COVID precautions - the BFNL stated it would have no hesitation in shutting down the season if clubs and spectators don't adhere to the COVID protocols.
The league has also said it would "take no risks, no matter how small" in relation to COVID.
While the league did face a challenging start to its season with three games being called off, it remains committed to the competition proceeding, providing it's safe to do so.
"We think it's really important that we provide an opportunity for our young footballers and netballers to play this year," McKinstry said.
"I'm really aware of the increased mental health issues for people of that age group, while we're also aware of players who may give away football or netball and not come back next year if there's no season.
"So we really wanted to do our best to give the kids something, and when the guidelines came out for return-to-competition we felt that we could achieve it.
"We still think it's manageable, but we just need everyone's help to make it manageable."
We still think it's manageable, but we just need everyone's help to make it manageableCarol McKinstry - BFNL board chair
Round one results:
South Bendigo 17.14 (116) d Eaglehawk 8.4 (52)
Strathfieldsaye 9.9 (63) d Sandhurst 7.4 (46)
South Bendigo 47 d Eaglehawk 38
Castlemaine 58 d Maryborough 20
Sandhurst 52 d Strathfieldsaye 41
Meanwhile, 10 of the Bendigo Junior Football League's round two games were called off at the weekend.
Eight of the games were called off as a precautionary measure in relation to Don KR Castlemaine, where six people have tested positive to COVID.
And two of the games were called off in relation to Gisborne Secondary College, which is closed after a COVID case was reported.
"The games being called off were all for precautionary measures after clubs notified us," AFL Central Victoria junior football operations manager Nathan Williams said.
"We'll continue to work with clubs and officials in terms of situations we get presented with, but at this stage we're committed to continuing the season provided games are safe to do so.
"We'll also work with clubs to see if there's an opportunity to reschedule the games that were cancelled."
The BJFL is running a 10-week season featuring 153 teams across 21 divisions.
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