Players’ union slams ‘unacceptable’ A-League travel fiasco

Sydney (AFP) – Australia’s footballers’ union lashed out Wednesday at “unacceptable” chaos after three Melbourne-based A-League teams were prevented from leaving Victoria for a second time with borders shutting as coronavirus cases surge.

The top flight A-League is due to resume next week but Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory and Western United remain stranded in the city while Football Federation Australia seek government exemptions so they can cross into New South Wales.

The first aborted attempt by the teams to leave was on Monday, when fog scuppered their planned flight to Canberra.

A day later when they were on buses to the airport only to learn they would have to spend a fortnight in quarantine on arrival.

The border between Australia’s two most populous states — Victoria and New South Wales — was closed from midnight Tuesday.

“What the players and their families have had to endure over the past 48 hours is unacceptable,” Professional Footballers Australia said.

“The lack of clarity, the ad-hoc planning and shifting commitments have left the players embarrassed, frustrated and entirely lacking confidence in the process.”

It added “a reliable and feasible plan” was needed “that does not shift the game’s inability to effectively manage these challenges solely on to players and their families”.

A-League chief Greg O’Rourke insisted they had done “absolutely everything we could to get the players and staff out of Victoria”.

“We are in discussions the NSW government, and we will continue to seek the exemptions necessary for the teams to travel,” he added.

The NSW government has indicated it would be sympathetic to the request with Deputy Premier John Barilaro saying if the opportunity was there “let’s bring them across the border”.

The chaos throws into doubt the A-League plan to restart on July 16 in New South Wales with Melbourne Victory playing Western United in a blockbuster Melbourne derby.

The league was suspended because of the pandemic March 24.

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