After three Victorian A-League teams attempted – and failed – to make a late trip over the NSW border before it closed last night, the FFA has confirmed it’s seeking an exemption from the government.
With a total of just 27 games remaining in the season, the FFA is desperate to move its Victorian-based clubs interstate but acted too late to make the move happen before the border closed.
FFA Head of Leagues, Greg O’Rourke, said the governing body had desperately tried to get all players and staff from Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory and Western United out of Victoria before borders closed yesterday at midnight, but they were thwarted by a flight mishap and an ever-changing situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite all the players boarding a plane to the ACT, weather closed Canberra Airport which then made it impossible to leave Victoria before the borders closed,” an FFA statement read.
“As a result, we will now begin the process to seek exemptions from the NSW Government to allow the teams to enter NSW for them to continue their season,” O’Rourke explained.
“If we find it necessary to revise the match schedule we will do so accordingly and will announce once confirmed, however at this time the schedule remains the same.”
On social media on Monday night, news of the late border crossing attempt leaked. It’s understood teams boarded buses from AAMI Park headed to Melbourne airport, with reports that players and staff were given mere hours notice.
It appears that the information the FFA were initially given on when and how they could travel teams over the border had changed, leading to the last-minute dash.
Originally teams were scheduled to fly on chartered planes to Sydney on Tuesday, but the strict border ban led to a hasty change, with a long bus trip over the NSW-Victoria state line the next option considered.
Then a flight to the ACT became the new destination under FFA’s direction.
It was scheduled to land before the midnight deadline, however inclement weather meant they never took off.
Teams were reportedly back in Melbourne in the early hours this morning.
Still, with the A-League season due to resume in just nine days time following a lengthy pandemic-induced break, the FFA faced some criticism over the late action taken to move Victorian teams over the border.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable. Never in my life, in my career, have I seen this before,” Western United striker Besart Berisha said on Instagram while in one of the team buses.
One A-League player reportedly described the situation to ESPN as “not normal” and “State League s—.”
Former Socceroo Rob Cornthwaite was stunned at the lack of planning.
“Vic team should have been out of there days ago,” he tweeted.
“This is failure from those in charge.”
On Tuesday afternoon, there appeared a light at the end of the tunnel for the FFA, with NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro stating he was open to granting an exemption for A-League teams from Victoria to relocate north.
“You’ve heard me on the NRL and the importance of sport and I think we’ve got to work with the FFA, so I’ll be reaching out to the FFA today to see what support they need,” Deputy Premier Barilaro said at a press conference.
“Of course, if we’ve got an opportunity to do so, let’s bring them across the border, let’s park them in the regions or here in the city and make sure they’re a part of the A-League that kicks off shortly.”