Football's A-League to kick off on July 16 after virus shutdown

Sydney (AFP) –


Australia's domestic football league plans to restart on July 16, officials said Monday, with the 27 remaining regular season games crammed into less than a month.

The A-League was the country's final active sport when the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold before being suspended on March 24.

But it is one of the last to resume, with rugby league and Australian Rules football already underway and Super Rugby due to kick off on July 3.

Football Federation Australia chief James Johnson said the A-League's return followed a new pay agreement with players to cover the now extended season.

"We have all had to readjust to this new landscape and this has meant coming together to make sacrifices for the greater good of the game," he said, without spelling out what the pay deal looked like.

The 11-team A-League kicked off in October and was nearing the end of its regular season when it was halted.

Head of Leagues Greg O'Rourke said the remaining 27 league matches will be contested over 28 days, starting on July 16, with five finals series games to follow.

"We can now focus on the testing of all players for COVID-19 before a return to training for the clubs this week," he added.

Fans could be allowed into stadiums to cheer on their teams. The Australian government last week announced plans to allow up 10,000 spectators from a yet-to-be-decided date next month.

Football is not Australia's most popular spectator sport, but more than two million people play the game countrywide.