APIA Leichhardt won the 2019 season but might not get a chance to defend their title. CREDIT:FOOTBALL NSW.
A season that promised to be one of the most significant in the history of the NSW National Premier League 1 may be scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that could impact the FFA Cup.
This year's competition was billed as a recruitment fair for A-League sides, with expansion putting dozens of players in the shop window, but several clubs are pushing to have the remainder of the 2020 season cancelled due to logistical and financial hardships.
With the season already postponed until May 31, several sides are lobbying Football NSW to scrap this year's senior mens season altogether after playing the first three rounds and begin planning for a return to the competition in early 2021, according to senior club sources.
Another scenario touted by the clubs and Football NSW is a condensed season played in the second half of the year, or playing the season in summer to fall in line with the A-League.
However, neither of those options have the unanimous backing of clubs. A summer competition, separating the senior mens' season from the youth tiers played in winter, poses logistical problems, while some clubs don't have access to fields in summer months.
One NPL 1 club informed the Herald it will struggle to meet its wage bill this year having lost sponsors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other clubs are associated with licensed social clubs that have been forced to shut their doors, leading to significant cash flow problems in the coming months.
“At this stage, all football activities are suspended through to 31 May 2020 and no decision has been made in relation to Football NSW’s NPL Competitions for the 2020 season, including our NPL Men’s Competition," a Football NSW spokesman said.
“We are engaging in discussions with clubs across all leagues on a weekly basis and continue to take on board their opinions as we recognise and respect the importance of their input into what competitions will look like if football is permitted to resume in 2020.”
The 2020 season was wedged between the introduction of two A-League expansion clubs; Western United in Victoria and the Campbelltown-based Macarthur FC, increasing the demand for professional players in the top tier by 20 per cent.