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MELBOURNE, June 16 (Reuters) - Australia’s top flight A-League soccer competition will resume on July 16 after a four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak with the remainder of the regular season completed in 28 days, Football Federation Australia said on Tuesday.
The season, suspended in March with six rounds and the championship playoffs left to play, will be wrapped up by the end of August.
Melbourne Victory will kick off the re-start against cross-town rivals Western United at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, with league leaders Sydney FC meeting third-placed Wellington Phoenix at Kogarah Oval on the following day.
The scheduling for the other 25 fixtures before the playoffs begin has yet to be worked out and will be decided according to government restrictions on travel between Australia’s states.
Phoenix, who are based in New Zealand, and Perth Glory, from Western Australia, will complete their regular seasons in the eastern city of Sydney because of travel restrictions.
Australia has been easing social distancing regulations in recent weeks after largely containing the virus and soccer will be the last of the football codes to resume.
A deal with the players over a cut in wages was secured earlier this week but there is still no resolution to negotiations over TV coverage with Fox Sports, which has a contract to broadcast the league until the end of 2023.
Fox Sports agreed reduced contracts with the National Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Football League (AFL) before their resumption and FFA’s Head of Leagues Greg O’Rourke said negotiations were “progressing fairly well”.
“We feel positive about ... the ability to have Fox broadcast the finish to the season, and also be a partner going forward,” O’Rourke said.
Phoenix are still awaiting clearance from the Australian government to relocate to New South Wales and begin 14 days of quarantine but O’Rourke expects they will receive it by Thursday at the latest.
O’Rourke was confident that clubs would have fans in the stands before the end of the season and left open the possibility that the playoffs might be played outside Sydney.
“With our finals series still the best part of two months away, we are keen to keep our options and thinking open regarding how and where that may be held,” he said. (Reporting by Ian Ransom and Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Tom Hogue and Peter Rutherford)