Dear Victorian Football Community,
We write to you at an extraordinary time, not just in football, but across our broader society. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged us all in ways we could not have imagined and our sport is no exception.
Firstly, on behalf of Football Victoria, we would like to take this time to thank you for doing all you can to help your fellow Victorians during this unprecedented period. It has been a time like no other and never before has our community been so determined to do the right thing.
The efforts made by the entire football family allowed us to get many of our competitions back onto the pitch – or within days of returning in metropolitan areas, before the return of Stage 3 lockdown. It was an extraordinary collective community effort.
Football has been greatly supported by the State Government, Sport and Recreation Victoria, Vicsport, our 79 Local Government Areas and a range of other stakeholders, who did all they could to provide support and ensure that football could resume at the appropriate time. Likewise, our commercial partners have stood with us every step of the way.
Unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control, once again, halted the planned state-wide resumption of football. We are pleased that some regional and junior competitions have been able to proceed but it is only a fraction of the wider community that is currently able to play. This has significant ramifications for football.
The decision to lockdown the state will have – and has already had – a devastating impact on football across Victoria. Clubs, players, officials, administrators, Associations and FV itself are massively impacted by these restrictions.
We already know that many of our Community and NPL clubs survive year to year and this pandemic has hit them hard.
Survey data from 2,700 clubs gathered by the Australian Sports Foundation (ASF)indicated a total financial loss this year of up to $1.5 billion, enough to cripple hundreds of sports clubs throughout Australia. Football is set to suffer the most, for ours is the largest grassroots sport.
But this is not some imaginary, ‘worst case scenario’ projection. This is right here, right now. After six months with hardly any football, our sport and the clubs that play it are on the edge. Everything imaginable has been done to save money but the sunk and unavoidable costs have become a substantial issue for our clubs to tackle.
If matters continue as they are, we may see a significant impact on football in years to come. We don’t want to lose any of our clubs or compromise on the incredible growth our game has experienced, in particular with women and girls football. We also want to ensure the future for our Elite and All Abilities pathways.
As a sport that is funded by participation, our collective revenues have been severely compromised and the prosperity of our sport is under threat.
At Football Victoria, we have minimised all expenses and staff have been stood down or had their pay drastically reduced. A skeleton staff has been working to keep the game alive. The impact on them has been totally devastating.
We are very close to finalising the FV refund policy for our portion of participants fees. Emergency committees of football stakeholders have been created to work through the incredibly complex matrix of issues. We are working with clubs to ensure their input in developing a reasonable, transparent and fair FV refund policy. Each individual club will need then to take into account their own circumstances when developing their own club refund policy.
We will be continuing to consult directly with clubs in coming weeks, all of which face significant challenges. We will make sure clubs are aware of any government relief packages available and will continue to provide assistance in unlocking funding opportunities. We are also working very closely with the state government to ensure opportunities for facilities funding are maximised at this time.
We’re committed to finding ways for our football community to play – for their own health, mental wellbeing and player development. Just because we have stopped for now does not mean we have stopped forever. When it is safe to play, we pledge to make football happen, in any way we can. We are actively working in the background on a variety of scenarios for when it is once again safe to play.
We remain absolutely determined to have competitive football happening before the end of 2020 provided it is safe to do so – it just might be in a different format than to what we have been accustomed to. Even though the situation changes week-to-week, we remain determined to get the ball rolling this year.
Despite all this, we have never been so confident that the fabric of our game is sound. The way our community has come together and supported each other demonstrates that we have a special group of people, all of who are committed to caring for this sport.
Now, we must care for each other. We must stay united and together. There are wonderful times ahead for our sport, and it is in times like these that we must remind ourselves that football’s best days – both in this state and this country – are still ahead of us.
Football will survive and it will again thrive. And when it does, we promise to be ready, just as we know our football community will be.
Please, take care and stay safe.
Sincerely yours in football,
Chief Executive Officer