MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The A-League’s hopes of resuming its season on July 16 remained in the balance on Wednesday after another failed attempt to get Melbourne-based clubs out of the city amid tightening COVID-19 restrictions.
Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Western United travelled to the airport on Tuesday for a second successive night hoping to reach a “hub” in New South Wales state to prepare for the top flight’s restart.
But the trip, which would have had them transit in Canberra, was aborted late in the evening due to government quarantine requirements in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
“We did absolutely everything we could to get the players and staff out of Victoria by midnight tonight, but in such a rapidly evolving situation, unfortunately it was just not possible,” Football Federation Australia (FFA) Head of Leagues Greg O’Rourke said in a statement.
The teams had also tried to fly to Canberra on Monday but fog forced the closure of the airport in the Australian capital.
The players’ union said the events of the previous 48 hours were “unacceptable”.
“The lack of clarity, the ad-hoc planning and shifting commitments have left the players embarrassed, frustrated and entirely lacking confidence in the process,” Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) said in a statement.
“Whilst the situation is complex, what the players require is simple: a reliable and feasible plan that does not shift the game’s inability to effectively manage these challenges solely on to players and their families.”
After NSW authorities closed the border to Victoria for an indefinite period from midnight on Tuesday in the wake of a COVID-19 spike in Melbourne, the FFA is pinning its hopes on the three teams being granted exemptions to enter the state.
A Melbourne City spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday that a “provisional” exemption had been approved by NSW but they were waiting for final confirmation.
“It’s pretty disappointing what’s happened but from the clubs’ side, we’ve done everything that’s been asked of us,” he said.
Editing by Peter Rutherford