2020 VFL season
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The 2020 Victorian Football League season, which was to have been the 139th season of the Victorian Football Association/Victorian Football League Australian rules football competition, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

See also: Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sports and COVID-19 pandemic in Australia

Preparations for the 2020 season featured all fifteen clubs from 2019, but the season was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was formally declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020, three weeks prior to the scheduled start of the premiership season. Governmental restrictions on non-essential public gatherings during the pandemic meant that, as a minimum, matches would need to be played before empty stadiums, as was planned for the Australian Football League;[1] however, AFL clubs with VFL reserves teams or affiliates had separate concerns that their players could be exposed to the virus when playing in the VFL, since the state league would not be able to offer the same level of medical and quarantine protections that the fully professional league could. AFL clubs began to withdraw their AFL-listed players from their VFL preseason programs,[2][3] before the start of the VFL season was suspended indefinitely on 16 March.[4] The AFL season was suspended shortly afterwards, and state government lockdowns precluded any state football being played.

Soon after, Carlton ended its reserves affiliation with the Northern Blues. Carlton had been investing significant money in the VFL club and in developing it as a pathway to senior football, but the financial impact of the pandemic forced Carlton to make significant cuts to its expenses, and ending its affiliation was one of these cuts. The Northern Blues club was by this stage reliant on Carlton for its financial viability; as a result, the club temporarily dropped out of the league after 101 years of membership. Carlton adopted a lower-cost strategy by fielding a stand-alone reserves team when AFL players were next released to play in the VFL in 2021.[5][6] The Northern Blues initially announced that they would fold, but regrouped throughout the year and found a model under which it would be viable as a stand-alone club; as a result, the club returned to the league under its previous Northern Bullants name from 2021.[7]

After months of uncertainty, and as lockdowns were being lifted, it was agreed on 16 June to play a shortened VFL season, with training to start from 13 July and the season to begin on 1 August.[8] Significantly, however, all AFL clubs were required to continue to keep AFL-listed players away from the state league systems for the entire season, in order to better control their quarantine environments and avoid risk to the AFL season; this means that AFL reserves teams were unable to contest the restarted season, and the three remaining clubs with reserves affiliations – Box Hill, Casey and Sandringham – would need to temporarily play as standalone senior clubs for the first time in two decades,[9] and were allowed to top up their playing lists, including getting first selection of any VFL-listed players from the AFL clubs' reserves teams who were seeking new teams for the season.[10]

This, coupled with the Northern Blues expecting to fold and being in no position to field a team, initially left only eight clubs to contest the shortened season. However, two weeks later, on 3 July, Casey announced its withdrawal from the season as well. Although the club had been preparing for the season and signing players to bolster its list, it opted to withdraw citing concern about health risks amid an ongoing rise in Victorian cases at the time.[11] The club was also dealing with the fact that it was not able to use Casey Fields, as it was normally shared with the AFL's Melbourne Football Club as a training venue, and quarantine segregations were required between VFL and AFL systems.[10]

Preparations continued, but on 7 July, the same date that the new fixture was released to clubs, the second wave of virus cases across Melbourne resulted in a new lockdown being imposed by the government which all but precluded organised sport in the state until at least 19 August (and ultimately lasting several months beyond that). The following day, the decision was made to cancel the season outright. It was the first senior VFA/VFL season to be cancelled since 1944, when the VFA was suffering from a financial crisis that was exacerbated by Australia's participation in World War II.[12][13]

Notable events

See also


  1. ^ Jon Ralph (13 March 2020). "The AFL season is in limbo with Round 1 to be played without fans". Herald Sun. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  2. ^ Marc McGowan (15 March 2020). "Tigers suspend VFL program because of coronavirus crisis". Australian Football League. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Western Bulldogs put VFL program on hold". SEN. 16 March 2020. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  4. ^ Riley Beveridge; Mitch Cleary (16 March 2020). "VFL season set to be suspended indefinitely". Australian Football League. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  5. ^ "Carlton and Northern Blues forced to cease alignment". Carlton Football Club. 26 March 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  6. ^ Peter Ryan; Daniel Cherny (26 March 2020). "Heartbreak as Carlton call sees VFL club with 138-year history go under". The Age. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  7. ^ Paul Amy (13 October 2020). "Northern Bullants to return to VFL as a stand-alone club". Leader. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  8. ^ Jon Ralph (16 June 2020). "VFL set to launch 2020 season on August 1 with eight teams". Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  9. ^ Paul Amy; Jon Ralph (4 May 2020). "Money a sticking point as VFL clubs try to map out a shortened season". Herald Sun. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Casey Demons are scrambling to find a home ground for the VFL season". Cranbourne Leader. Cranbourne, VIC. 18 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  11. ^ Paul Amy (3 Jul 2020). "Casey Demons withdraw from the 2020 VFL season". Cranbourne Leader. Retrieved 3 Jul 2020.
  12. ^ Paul Amy (8 July 2020). "Game over: AFL pulls the pin on 2020 VFL season". Leader. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  13. ^ "VFL forced to cancel season after COVID spike". AFL.com.au. 8 July 2020.
  14. ^ Ben Higgins (18 December 2019). "Coburg taking VFL to Craigieburn, Ballarat and Melton in 2020". Moreland Leader. Retrieved 28 December 2019.