By Luke Voogt
Geelong will host no home-and-away football for the first time since World War II following a joint decision to abandon the 2020 season.
The AFL Barwon Commission on Tuesday issued a joint statement with the Geelong and District, Geelong, Bellarine and Colac and District football and netball leagues calling off the season.
The cancellation of the home-and-away season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was the first since 1943, an AFL Barwon spokesperson confirmed.
The decision, applying to all senior and reserve football and netball competitions, followed a “lengthy collaborative consultation process” with clubs, according to AFL Barwon general manager Will McGregor.
“Unfortunately, cancelling senior football and netball in 2020 is the only viable option to ensure the sustainability of 44 senior clubs,” Mr McGregor said.
Almost four out five clubs surveyed across the four leagues did not support the season going ahead or were willing to follow the commission’s decision, according to AFL Barwon.
About a third of players in the GFL, BFL, GDFL and CDFL said they did not want to play in 2020.
In the netball leagues about half of Geelong players and a third of Bellarine players did not wish to play.
Eighty per cent of clubs voted against the season going ahead with crowd limits of 100, with 85 per cent of clubs saying limited numbers would impact their financial viability.
Clubs raised concerns about generating revenue without social functions or opening of bars and canteens.
Other concerns included COVID-19 health risks and the inability to effectively manage crowds to comply with state government restrictions and social distancing.
But the leagues remained committed to conducting junior football, junior netball and senior female football competitions in 2020, according to AFL Barwon.
The leagues would also develop modified senior football and netball competitions with clubs over the coming weeks, AFL Barwon said.
The decision would allow all clubs to return in 2021 in the strongest position possible, according to Mr McGregor.
“For our members to come back reinvigorated in 2021, we believe this is the only course of action given the time frames,” he said.
Mr McGregor said AFL Barwon had a duty to protect clubs from over-burdening volunteers and forfeits, which would have tainted an already compromised seasons if they were to commence.
“I would like to pass on my wholehearted thanks to all our member clubs, their tireless volunteers, AFL Barwon staff, umpiring associations and our valued partners for their passion, support and efforts over this challenging COVID-19 period,” he said.