Upfield disputing season cancellation

Upfield soccer club players (Supplied)

By Michaela Meade

Upfield Soccer Club, along with over 40 clubs across Victoria, are fighting Football Victoria’s decision to cancel all 2021 competitions, without promotion or relegation.

The 2020 FV competitions were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With Victoria’s recent struggle against outbreaks and a sixth lockdown, FV handed down the decision to cancel the remainder of 2021 competitions on Friday, September 3.

FV also announced the decision to not promote or relegate any clubs.

Upfield senior coach Ozan Kara and president Wally Hanna have joined forces with over 40 club representatives from across Victoria and FV competitions – known as United Football – to dispute FV’s decision.

Kara said the club’s reasons for disputing FV’s decision were threefold.

“Firstly, the decision to cancel the season runs contrary to all communication issued by Football Victoria throughout the season,” Kara said.

“As a result, club officials feel let down by the decision makers who are responsible for administering football in Victoria.

“Secondly, given the 2020 season was cancelled as a result of COVID, Football Victoria had ample time to mitigate against disruption to the 2021 season and should have planned for this situation.

“Lastly, punishing those clubs with ambition to get promoted and grow our code is not conducive to developing football and football players in Australia.

“These clubs should be rewarded for their ambition and success, not punished.”

United Football has presented FV with three options to consider; promotion and recognition of champions based on current standings or points per matches played method, with or without relegation; restructure of the leagues to achieve the desired effect of promotion/relegation, completed in line with the 2021 Football Australia Performance Gap Report; or align with FV principles and fixture the outstanding games between teams who have not played against each other to complete the season and award promotion and relegation.

Kara said FV’s decision has had an “extremely detrimental” flow-on impact throughout Upfield’s players.

“Junior development has gone backward and player motivation has diminished,” Kara said.

“Clubs have lost their source of revenue be it from sponsors pulling their support, members not renewing their memberships and junior registration numbers plummeting.

“These are all things that are visible.

“What’s even more concerning is the mental health impact of this situation on our youth.

“We will see the long term impact of this in years to come.”

Kara said there could still be hope for the future.

“​Fundamentally, we are all servants of football and want to make a positive contribution to the betterment of the game,” Kara said.

“I am hoping FV appreciate that we are not challenging their decision for personal gain, but to promote the game we all love.”

Hanna said FV has made mistakes in the wake of Victoria’s fifth COVID-19 lockdown, without communicating properly with their clubs.

“FV didn’t consult about their decision with clubs who were on top of the ladder and have invested time, planning and money to be in the top three of their league ladders,” Hanna said.

“FV made a mistake by not playing round 10 and 11 after the first snap lockdown but instead continued with the fixture and rescheduled the postponed rounds for further dates.

“FV made a mistake by not including competition laws for 2021 to include scenarios of season completion of lockdown was to be ongoing.”