Suspended NPL seasons send ripples through Victorian football community


The suspension of Football Victoria’s NPL seasons meant teams flying high at the top of their respective tables went unrewarded, writes Nick D’Urbano in Part IX of KEEPUP with the NPL.

The 2021 NPL season in Victoria has already passed into the history books, but the consequences of Football Victoria’s decision to cut the campaign short could be felt for some time.

After Melbourne’s sixth lockdown was extended in September, the state body decided to cancel all metropolitan Melbourne seasons for a second consecutive year – citing they couldn’t guarantee a timeframe for a safe return to action.

“Unfortunately, the most recent Government announcement means our options to complete the 2021 season for our metropolitan Melbourne competitions have now reached an end,” Football Victoria (FV) said in a statement back on September 3.

“We know this news is disappointing, particularly following last year’s abandoned season. Winter sport has borne the brunt of lockdowns and in turn, the impact on our football community has been immense.”

Along with the premature cancellation, FV decided there would be no promotion or relegation between the tiers, no champions or premiers crowned, and any hope for an end of year finals series was swiftly curtailed.

These rulings to not name a premier or honour promotion and relegation sent ripples through the Victorian football community from top to bottom.

With eight games still to play in Victoria’s top flight, Avondale sat on top of the league and seemed destined to be crowned premiers having established a sizable seven-point gap ahead of nearest rivals, Oakleigh Cannons.

As a result, the Avengers would go another season without any silverware despite dominating the league throughout the 18 rounds staged – losing only once and going 15 games unbeaten before the shut-down.

Avondale, however, have not taken this news lightly, deciding to fight the state body’s decision to not crown them as 2021 Premiers, and say they will commence proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

After trying to seek a resolution with FV which would reward the Avengers with their first ever piece of top-flight silverware, the club decided to challenge the matter in the courts.

“It is AFC’s position that the FV Constitution, the NPL Participation Licence and the NPL Rules require FV to have crowned Avondale FC the NPL premier for 2021 NPL season,” the statement read.

“Rule 10.2.5 of the NPL Rules provides that “The NPL Team finishing on top of the ladder at the conclusion of the Regular Season will be crowned NPL Premiers.

“It is Avondale FC’s view that this rule requires FV to crown Avondale FC as NPL premier for the 2021 season.

“As Avondale FC was on top of the ladder at the conclusion of the regular season, Avondale FC maintains that it is entitled to be crowned the NPL premier for the NPL 2021 season.”

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Avondale FC players celebrate a goal in the Dockerty Cup Semi-Final against Port Melbourne Sharks in August, 2021. Credit: Football Victoria

Meanwhile in NPLW Victoria, South Melbourne’s superb campaign also went without reward, despite ending the season with a club record-breaking undefeated streak and holding a five-point gap on top of the league.

The decision to suspend promotion and relegation – from NPL Victoria to State League Five – created a stir among the Victorian football community, though FV maintains it had no choice in the circumstances of the pandemic.

Over 40 Victorian clubs under the banner United Football Group of Clubs have banded together to challenge FV’s decision, initially presenting a number of options for the state body to consider.  

“The Football Victoria Board has rejected all options for promotion and relegation or restructure, despite making commitments during the season that this would be available to clubs for the 2021 season,” Chair of United Football Group of Clubs Zak Gruevski said.

“The Group is currently exploring all options to reach a sensible resolution with Football Victoria, either through negotiation or one that is imposed by external parties.”

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However, the last ball hasn’t been kicked in anger for 2021 with both the Dockerty and Nike FC Cups set to recommence in December – which would give both Avondale men’s and South Melbourne women’s a chance to take home some silverware.

The Avengers are set to take on Hume City on December 4 at ABD Stadium in the Dockerty Cup Final while the semi finals of the Nike FC Cup will be contested between South, Box Hill, Calder United and Bulleen Lions on the weekend of December 11 with the final to be staged on the 19th at CB Smith Reserve.

With vaccination targets being met in Victoria, community sport has returned, opening the door not only for both those tournaments to have a conclusive winner – but more importantly, an interruption-free 2022 campaign.

Featured image credit: Football Victoria