WHILE some sports are facing a year on the sidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, soccer, or football if you prefer, looks likely to take place in Mildura in the coming months. While the jury is still out on interstate events such as the Riverland Sunraysia Champions League, where pictured duo Lachlan Brown of Renmark and Andre Gallo of Three Colours clashed, signs look positive for the S-League in 2020. Photo: Grant Schwartzkopff.
By MITCH RODD

IT seems all systems are go for soccer in Sunraysia, with only a final confirmation needed from the Victorian Government and Football Victoria (FV) to give competition the green light.

Given the variety of other sporting competitions that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears to be good news for Football Federation Sunraysia (FFS) to return to the pitches of Soccer Park.

While competitions are in a holding pattern right now, Premier Daniel Andrews and the FV board are expected to announce the next steps available to be taken around the State early next week.

Following recent FV recommendations, the green light next week would mean junior competition in Mildura could start on Sunday, June 28, and senior S-League action on Sunday, July 11.

FFS general manager, Susan Watts, said she is confident that the 2020 S-League season should go ahead, however there are still plenty of details up in the air until FV can confirm a return to competition.

“We still haven’t had the go ahead yet, so we can’t put exact plans into place until that happens, but we should know by early next week,” she said.

“I know most of the clubs have started training, but we still have to sort out exact numbers and what each of our grades look like.

“We’re quite lucky down at Soccer Park where we have five pitches and they are pretty well spread out, and parents should be able to park cars around each of the them. If we need to we may have to spread fixtures out and play some games on a Saturday, but we’re lucky that we don’t have to share the facilities with another sport so we can do that if we need.”

Watts said there are four different versions of fixtures that have been created for 2020, and which would be used will depend on further Government decisions.

“Normally our S-League would run for 15 weeks, which would mean with six teams that everybody would play each other three times,” she said.

“One option is we could do 15 weeks and another two weeks of finals and have us finishing in mid-November, although it could be getting a bit hot by that stage.

“I think the minimum we would be looking at is a 10 round S-League season, where everyone plays each other twice, without a finals series, which would have us finishing around the same time as we normally would (September).

“We were due to have the South Australian Country Championships here in August, so we’re continuing to talk with Football South Australia about the details in regards to that. I’ve also had some conversations with Broken Hill, where it looks like they may not get a competition up and running, and we could potentially do something with them. But really we’re just waiting to see what all the details are and what we can do.”

Watts said she wants to be able to give players, especially children, the chance to take part in some form of sport this year.

“I think we just have to offer what we can offer, and it’s up to people if they want to accept it or not,” she said.

“We’re not sure of what playing numbers will look like. There will be parents who might not want their children to play because of COVID-19, and maybe some might not be able to afford it. On the flip side, if other sports like football and netball don’t go ahead there could be more players coming down to have a go.

“Of course everyone has to follow the COVID-19 guidelines.

“From my perspective, our model of how we are run has our income and expenses peeled right back. We don’t really have sponsors and as it’s an amateur competition we don’t pay our players.

“We’re literally now just waiting for the Premier to give us the go ahead, but I’m feeling confident that we’ll be able to have some form of competition.”