Football Australia exploring means of supporting pandemic-affected FFA Cup clubs

Football Australia has confirmed it is exploring methods of supporting NPL clubs affected by delays to their Round of 32 FFA Cup Fixtures with minimum roster requirements and competitiveness. 

Football Australia, in the wake of the successful staging of Round of 32 FFA Cup contests across West Australia, South Australia and Queensland, undertook a select draw for the Round of 16 last week — extending the regional zones concept to allow teams unaffected by COVID lockdowns to continue without drawn out delays. 

Under the federation’s current plan, these WA, SA and Queensland-based Round of 16 fixtures will take place in late October, while Round of 32 contests involving teams from the ACT, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania are pencilled in, government and health authority restrictions allowing, to take place in November

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Teams across Victoria have recently returned to training in preparation for these fixtures; South Melbourne preparing to face A-League Men outfit Melbourne City, Hume City and Port Melbourne squaring up for an all-NPL Victoria clash and Avondale getting set to face Tasmania powers Devenport City. 

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However, the pandemic-affected nature of the 2021 FFA Cup campaign has thrown up a series of practical challenges for clubs still awaiting their chance to strut their stuff on the national stages of the competition. 

Players and staff from Victorian teams, for example, will almost certainly be required to have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by October 15 under the Victorian Government’s new rules surrounding authorised workers, and be fully vaccinated by November 26. 

Further, the forced cancellation of NPL seasons — Football NSW abandoning their season on August 12 and Football Victoria following suit on September 3 — and the uncertainty that has hovered over the FFA Cup means that numerous teams have seen their ranks heavily depleted in the purgatory-like months that passed without news on the fate of the 2021 Cup. 

The semi-professional nature of the NPL means players may have returned to their home states in the wake of their season’s cancellations, been forced to focus on their work due to economic hardship resulting from the pandemic or, in some cases, simply signed for other teams in preparation for future seasons.  

South, for instance, will now have to face the might of reigning A-League Men Premiers and Champions City without the services of Henry Hore after the attacker signed with Brisbane Roar and Avondale attacker Stefan Valentini, having had a long-standing offer to do so, is now on trial at Perth Glory. 

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Hume, meanwhile, will have to prepare for their latest assault on the national stages of the competition without the services of standout goalkeeper Michael Weier after the Queenslander earned a well-deserved A-League Men contract with Newcastle Jets. 

In response to the unique circumstances befalling this year’s Cup, Football Australia confirmed to JDL Media that the federation was currently evaluating the possibility of allowing clubs to reinforce their squads. 

“Football Australia is currently considering allowing NPL clubs affected by COVID-19 delays to the FFA Cup final rounds schedule to access the current Football Australia Registration window to assist with meeting the minimum player roster requirements and being able to field a competitive team for the FFA Cup,” a Football Australia spokesperson said. 

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