THE Limestone Coast Football Association Steeline Cup has been cancelled due to the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cup was scheduled to kick off this Sunday, but a directive from Football Federation Australia has forced the popular pre-season tournament to be removed from the 2020 calendar, with no games or training to be held until at least April 14.
LCFA president Eric Nieto said while it was disappointing to call off the cup, there was no choice in the matter and it was a necessary sacrifice.
“It was all a flow-on effect from FFA – Football Federation of Australia – onto FSA and then onto the affiliated bodies of FSA,” he said.
Nieto said the cup was an expected casualty of the current global health crisis, but it was still disheartening for all involved.
“Your sponsors are looking forward to it and it is a good pre-season for the clubs, plus you start making money early for your club,” he said.
“Clubs need finance and they need the games.”
The LCFA board has discussed how the association can move forward, but at this stage – like all other sports – there are limited decisions which can be made during the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“We had a meeting last Monday night and the number one item on the agenda was the coronavirus and the affect on our league,” Nieto said.
“We are pretty much governed by FFA and FSA, so once we get a clear idea of when we can play the sport, then we will resume with our league.
“Our intention is to play the season even if it finishes at a later date.
“That will take a few meetings between board members to decide the best protocol, but we just feel that every club needs finances and a year without that is no good for any club.”
While the current suspension of play is only effective until April 14, Nieto does not expect players to hit the park for the scheduled first round of the premiership cup on May 10.
He said the league is prepared to run the season later into the year if it means the 2020 competition can be completed in some form.
“I do not expect any soccer to start until after the June long weekend – that is what we are envisioning at the moment,” Nieto said.
“This (COVID-19) is going to be around for more than just a few weeks.
“If it means our season might go into late October or something like that, so be it.”
Nieto said the possibility of the season being cancelled entirely would be “the worst-case scenario”, but it remains out of the association’s hands at this stage.
For now Limestone Coast players, clubs and fans are forced into a waiting game along with countless sporting organisations across the world.
“When we look at it they are a lot worse overseas than we have it,” Nieto said.
“You look at our kids and whether they are playing footy, cricket or soccer, they can always get a ball and go and play with it in the back yard.
“In Europe most people live in apartments and they do not have the luxury of doing that.”
However, the current situation has certainly hit home – which is evident in the emptiness of sporting grounds around the Blue Lake city.
“I drive past White Avenue every day and, especially on a Saturday when I go past, I just look at Tenison and nobody is training and there is nobody at Malseed Park playing soccer or football.”