(Removes border closure reference in first paragraph, corrects closure date in paragraphs 2 and 3)
SYDNEY, July 7 (Reuters) - Football Federation Australia (FFA) will be forced to request exemptions to allow Melbourne’s three A-League clubs into New South Wales for the rest of the season after failing to get them out of Victoria on Monday.
After a spike in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, the border between Victoria and New South Wales will be closed for an indefinite period from midnight on Tuesday, the first time it has been shut since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919. For Melbourne residents the closure came 24 hours earlier.
The Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Western United teams were loaded on to an evening flight heading north to Canberra.
The plan was scuppered, however, when fog forced the closure of the airport in the Australian capital and the plane remained stranded on the tarmac in Melbourne.
“As a result, we will now begin the process to seek exemptions from the New South Wales government to allow the teams to enter New South Wales for them to continue their season,” A-League chief Greg O’Rourke said in a statement.
“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.”
The A-League season was interrupted in mid-March after the first wave of coronavirus infections in Australia but will resume on July 16 with six rounds and the championship playoffs left to play.
Western United are scheduled to play Melbourne Victory in the opening fixture after the resumption and then face Melbourne City on July 20.
The A-League were hoping to complete the season in a single “hub” in New South Wales, which has recorded only one new case of the virus over the last week.
Ten Australian rules, one rugby union and one rugby league team from Melbourne have all left the state to ensure their leagues can continue.
Five Victoria-based motorsports teams successfully got out of the state in a convoy on Monday and will relocate to Sydney, where the next round of the Supercars championship takes place on July 18-19.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Richard Pullin