By Nick Creely
AFL Outer East has joined the long line of local football competitions in Victoria to officially abandon their 2020 senior football seasons.
While AFL Outer East had been optimistic that a 2020 season could get going despite ongoing concerns about potential crowd management, volunteer strain and a number of other factors in the wake of a spike in Covid-19 cases in the state, the league has scrapped its plans for a 1 August start.
The commission advised clubs on Thursday that the senior football – which was slated to be played with one division – reserves and veterans football would not go ahead in 2020, with the tightening of protocols and an ever-moving landscape making a return in 2020 unfeasible and unsustainable.
AFL Outer East – which has previously stated that each competition under its governance would be reviewed separately – has confirmed that senior netball, junior netball, women’s football and junior football would proceed as per normal.
At this stage, netball is locked in for a season start on 1 August. The junior football season – which includes under-18s – will still go ahead on the weekend of 25 and 26 July, while women’s football will also kick-off on 1 August.
AFL Outer East chairman Tony Mitchell told the Journal that, while the league did everything it could to make a 2020 season feasible for clubs, ultimately with further tightening of restrictions and lingering doubts about crowds that it forced its hand.
“Our position has been to exhaust every avenue to get football into a position where we had an ability to play, but restrictions around crowds meant that in an already compromised season it wasn’t sustainable,” he said.
“The management of a senior football crowds and the ability to generate revenue was a key component of what we did, and from a senior footy perspective is not achievable (this season.
“We actually had nine clubs ready to go, but it was also going to be if we could get crowds, and if it was sustainable and feasible, and this week we had to make a sensible decision on whether we could do that.”
In a statement from the commission, the league said that the way senior clubs handled the ongoing discussions about the season has been first class.
“AFL Outer East is immensely proud and grateful of its senior clubs throughout this period,” the statement read.
“They have been united, positive, and hugely resilient and the leadership of our senior committees, coaches and players during this period has been exemplary.
“The commitment to well-being, connectedness and mental health of participants and the community has been outstanding. Our clubs have set great foundations to return stronger than ever in 2021.”
With the senior football competitions now cancelled, the league will put its focus into its junior competitions, senior netball and women’s football, with Mitchell confident that these competitions can enjoy a 2020 season, based on current government advice that sets it apart from the senior football.
“The protocols allow those competitions (to start this year) – it’ll require some modifications and it’ll be an arrive, play and leave type scenario, so we’re looking to try and get those competitions going,” he said.