Bendigo FNLMedia Release | The Bendigo Football Netball League have this evening made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Bendigo Football Netball League senior football and netball home and away seasons due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

This decision relates to all senior grades of football and netball for season 2020 – seniors and reserves football, along with netball including A Grade, A Reserve, B Grade and B Reserve grades of home and away competition. In regular consultation and with the full support of all BFNL member clubs, the difficult yet necessary decision has been made due to the mounting safety concerns and the ongoing uncertainty being placed on the BFNL, clubs, players and volunteers to launch a partial season that we felt would be viable, achievable and sustainable, maintaining integrity, but most importantly was in the best interests of community safety and wellbeing.

 The Bendigo Football Netball League in conjunction with all affiliated clubs remain committed to providing alternative competitions for our Under 18 footballers and 17 & Under netballers who are governed by a different set of State Government protocols to the senior players. We will continue to do everything in our power to offer developmental and participation opportunities for the future generation of senior BFNL players, and the League and its member clubs will continue to liaise and logistically develop alternate competitions and fixtures in the immediate future that can proceed in a safe and sustainable manner.

 The Bendigo FNL would like to extend its sincere thanks to all of our member clubs and Presidents, including their dedicated and passionate players, volunteers, committees, members, supporters, along with all valued sponsors of the Bendigo FNL, the Bendigo Umpires Association and AFL Central Victoria staff for their overwhelming support and understanding during this challenging period. The League also extends its thanks to local Cricket Associations and Councils for the flexibility demonstrated to explore all possible opportunities to return safely in 2020.

 In what has been a difficult fortnight for the state of Victoria and as the authorities currently work to manage and suppress a spike in COVID-19 outbreaks across Melbourne, several new concerns were presented to the BFNL. These concerns, along with the continued uncertainty surrounding various non-negotiables for a safe and achievable return, have hampered the ability of the League to continue to pursue alternative seasons for our senior football and netball competitions in 2020. Some of the new and existing concerns that have ultimately driven this difficult decision include:

Most importantly, increased concerns for local and regional community safety and welfare heightened by the increasing spikes in COVID-19 transmissions across Melbourne, specifically considering the risk of transmission between individuals from BFNL member clubs who commute or live outside of the BFNL geographical region
Continued uncertainty and challenges relating to clubs being able to host and manage crowds for senior competitions
The responsibilities associated with complying with necessary COVID-19 safety requirements and the impact this would have on clubs and their hard-working and dedicated volunteer base
Financial risks faced by the League and its member clubs due to the ongoing uncertainty of the situation and current economic environment
Concerns that protocols and guidelines currently presented are subject to advice and change from relevant authorities, which may have resulted in the need to abandon the 2020 season after commencing the initial rounds.
Overall concerns with the integrity, viability, and financial sustainability of proceeding with the 2020 season and possible implications for the 2021 season.

Following a lengthy consultation period with clubs, League Manager Cameron Tomlins said, “We understand and acknowledge the significant challenges and shared frustrations clubs, players, volunteers, supporters and the wider local community have been subject to during the past few months during this unprecedented situation.”

 “The Bendigo FNL has remained steadfast in keeping all options open as long as possible as we continued exploring every opportunity to return to the ovals and courts in 2020, provided we could do so in a safe, achievable and sustainable manner. Community safety and wellbeing has remained paramount to our decision making process, however together with our clubs, the BFNL have been committed to exhausting every possibility to enable an opportunity to participate and compete in 2020, based on the strong appetite of our clubs and players to do so.”

 “This is certainly not the outcome we were hoping to achieve. The continued and growing uncertainty we still face coupled with the incredibly tight time frames to launch a partial season that is viable for all clubs without imposing unnecessary financial, mental and physical pressure on clubs has led to our ultimate decision. The League have remained dedicated to leaving the door ajar as long as possible but acknowledge that everyone is now seeking a level of certainty and guidance we cannot provide in the required time frames.”

 “This is an incredibly difficult day for the League, and this is an unprecedented situation, though we must make a responsible decision based on what is best for our local clubs, local community and the integrity of our competition. The ongoing uncertainty surrounding community attendance at matches, how to generate revenue through regular channels such as canteens, bars, and social functions, the uncertain burden and responsibilities thrust upon clubs to comply with the necessary protocols and guidelines, concerns for health and wellbeing, concerns for short to medium term financial sustainability and other such implications means the cancellation of the 2020 senior season is unfortunately the only viable option.”

 “Levels of COVID-19 impact are being felt differently across each respective club, though most clubs have now experienced a significant and comparable reduction of income already in regular revenue streams such as sponsorship due to the overall effect on local business, and reductions to club membership and minimal regular fundraising and hospitality opportunities” Tomlins said.

“Recent spikes in transmission of the virus have clearly demonstrated this pandemic is far from over, therefore we all need to continue to play our role in reducing the spread and risk of transmission. We sincerely hope as restrictions finally lift, local clubs will have opportunities regardless to again host their members in the coming months, and we urge everyone to support and stay connected with your local clubs, stay safe and support each other as we ensure our community clubs are sustainable in the future.”

 “We will be back, bigger and better in 2021”.

Further announcements will be made in due course addressing the possible structure of modified seasons for the Under 18 football and 17 & Under netball competitions this year.