COVID-19: Country football leagues fight to survive during uncertainty

As the Covid-19 outbreak has rapidly spread and as cases have continued to pop up even in regional towns, life for Australians has changed very suddenly in very profound ways.

Main streets are at times deserted and playgrounds are quiet as entire communities batten down the hatches.

Football ovals and sporting grounds that previously provided a stomping ground for young people are empty.

All team sport has been shuttered on a national scale and even the remotest towns in SA have been broadly affected.

In some cases, sporting clubs that entire communities have previously rallied behind are struggling just to survive.

Tanunda versus Angaston in last year's BL&G football grand final.

Tanunda versus Angaston in last year's BL&G football grand final.


Barossa, Light and Gawler Football League president Mick Brien said the league would do everything it could to keep local clubs up and running during the period of uncertainty.

"There won't be any closure of clubs, not in our league - that's a definite," Mr Brien said.

"The league will look after clubs if they are in trouble but I don't think we will have to look after them, they are pretty good on their own.

"There will be no closures in our league."

Mr Brien said they had engaged local councils and members of parliament to negotiate support for clubs who will have bills and leases piling up without any way to generate revenue.

"I think our clubs will be impacted but if we can get these benefits to them it will ease the burden," he explained.


In the south, things are less certain.

Southern Football League President Craig Warman said league will give teams a four week preseason period.

"Of course we would love to be playing footy but with what's happened, not only here but around the world, this is unprecedented," Mr Warman said.

Despite the success of Flagstaff Hill Football Club in recent years, having won the last four Southern Football League Premierships, FHFC President Neil Williams said the delay of the season and potentially complete cancellation is a worry both for the club's community and financial position.

"A big part of a footy club is the community it creates," he said.

"So, just seeing your mates at training whether your an Under 13, a Senior A-grader or an Under 17 girls player - we all get together at training, committee meetings and after each game - do presentations.

"It's a real loss of a sense of community that a footy club creates."


The Northern Areas Football League has been suspended until further notice, throwing a huge spanner in the works for clubs looking to chase a flag.

Coach Broughton-Mundoora coach Nick Hewett said this has prompted a change in his approach to coaching.

"In the initial stages everyone was probably a little disappointed because they have put in a fair bit of effort over the summer," he said.

"But I think now everyone is starting to look a little bit bigger picture, and while sport plays a massive role in all of our lives and we all love our footy I think everyone is just hoping that they have come out of it with their health and everyone's families' health."

His concerns also extends beyond the playing group, as businesses begin to feel the pressure.

"You worry about small businesses, particularly living in the country... Hopefully everyone does the right thing and supports local while they can."

With the restrictions on social movements and business operations changing daily, Hewett said their outlook for the upcoming season has had to shift as well.

"Initially conversation was around try and keep yourself a little bit fit in case we do end up playing," he said.

"There are probably bigger things at play here and I'll let them wrap their heads around it.

"A lot of them might be a little bit concerned about livelihood."


The Far West Football League (FWFL) and the Mid West Football League (MWFL) have seen the new season delayed due to the pandemic.

FWFL president Ron Redford said the pandemic was a "unique and rapidly evolving situation" which would be monitored closely.

"Football and training in the FWFL has been postponed until May 31, however the FWFL in consultation with our clubs and the FWNA are planning for football post-May 31," he said.

"We appreciate everyone's patience and understanding during this time and absolutely intend to keep our supporters and all stakeholders updated as new information comes to hand."

Mid West Football League president Matt Cook said the decision had the health of all involved in the competition in mind.

"This decision has been made in consideration of the challenges it creates, but most importantly the welfare of all players, coaches, umpires, officials, staff, volunteers and families," he said in a statement on the MWFL website.

"It could also present issues with liability or similar as well as expose the league and/or clubs to other risks and challenges.