The Northern Football Netball League (NFNL) and Eastern Football Netball League have today jointly announced the decision to cancel their senior football competitions for season 2020.

The NFNL and EFNL Boards endorsed the recommendation from league management to cancel all senior football (including seniors, reserves and under-19s) for both men’s and women’s competitions.

Both leagues remain committed to conducting junior football competitions in 2020. The NFNL is also committed to conducting its netball competitions.

Both Leagues have been in constant communication with their respective clubs, the other major metropolitan leagues and AFL Victoria throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent feedback from senior clubs indicated an overwhelming wish for the future of the 2020 season to be determined without further delay. Both the NFNL and EFNL believed that cancelling their senior competitions is the only viable decision that will ensure the long-term sustainability of their clubs and the leagues.

The NFNL and EFNL have the health and safety of not only their participants but the wider community at front of mind in making these judgements.

Both leagues have a clear obligation to protect players, coaches, volunteers, officials, umpires, staff, supporters, and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other concerns raised by senior football clubs were: the fiscal burden that playing just half a season would bring; the number of additional requirements for volunteers; the inability to effectively manage crowds to comply with current social distancing rules and crowd restrictions at public (often unfenced) venues and not wanting to play matches without their local community being able to attend without restriction.

The ongoing uncertainty around season 2020 has been a major concern for clubs as they sought clarity, which we have now been able to provide.

NFNL CEO Peter McDougall said the NFNL had conducted a lengthy and thorough consultation process with all of its key stakeholders prior to making its decision and was committed to beginning 2021 with all of its clubs in the strongest possible position to succeed in the long term.

“The NFNL has maintained a view throughout this process that we do not want one club to come back next year worse off than they are now,” McDougall said.

“All clubs were aware of the challenges associated with managing a reduced season under COVID-19 rules and restrictions and were very open, balanced, and frank about where their club sat.

“Clubs expressed concerns about their financials, player numbers, committees, older volunteers, crowd restrictions and their inability to manage crowds at open public spaces.

“We must make decisions based on what is best in both the short and the long-term. The information we have gathered from our clubs together with the latest medical advice, has determined that cancelling the senior football and netball competitions in 2020 is the only viable option.

“The health and safety of the community and club and league sustainability have always been our top priorities.”

The NFNL and EFNL are both committed to working closely with AFL Victoria and all member clubs to manage the associated issues related to the cancellation of all senior football competitions in 2020 and will now begin working with clubs towards a return to the field in 2021.

A final decision on junior football and netball competitions and their 2020 structure will be released as additional social distancing and health protocol updates come to hand.

These announcements will be made over the coming weeks, but for now we move forward with a return to training being the key first step to seeing junior football and netball resume in 2020.

Peter McDougall
Chief Executive Officer
Northern Football Netball League