Dissension at top level over whether Capital Football competition will resume this year

Dominic Giannini 25 May 2020

An ex-Capital Football board member has hit out at the organisation for how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: File.

An ex-board member has hit out at Capital Football for a lack of communication between the organisation and some NSW teams who play in the Premier League, alleging that its actions have jeopardised any return to competition as COVID-19 restrictions lift.

But in another sign of dissension in the top tiers of the ACT’s most popular grassroots sport, regional clubs have rebutted the allegations and say that while communications could have been better, the organisation has performed adequately during the crisis.

Garth Morrison originally put his hand up for renomination but then withdrew his board candidacy a week before Wednesday’s (20 May) Annual General Meeting. He claims that no communication with NSW representatives had been made.

“It is disappointing that Capital Football has left it so late to speak to councils in NSW regarding a return to football. It puts the possibility of NPL, NPL2 and NPLW – along with all other competitions – returning in 2020 into significant doubt,” he told Region Media.

“Not working with councils to generate a return-to-football plan puts great pressure on our NSW-based clubs who are already under immense pressure from COVID-19, to do the heavy lifting themselves.”

But Monaro Panthers executive Anthony Nicoletti says that while communication could have been better, Capital Football has kept in touch during the extenuating circumstances.

Mr Nicoletti sits on the Premier League Standing Advisory Committee (PLSAC), which he says may be why he had such open communication with the board, which regularly shared modelling and chaired meetings with the committee.

Cooma Tigers President Harry Hovasapian also sits on the PLSAC, meaning the only two NSW teams in the NPL1 have a representative in the committee.

Teams from Gundaroo, Griffith, Palerang, Southern Tablelands, Yass, Wagga Wagga and Yoogali are also covered by Capital Football but do not play in the NPL1.

Region Media understands that Capital Football staff were each instructed to remain in contact with the club presidents from four clubs, emailing them at least three times a week to keep them up to date with a return to play.

The Capital Football board also held three Google Hangout meetings that were open to all club presidents.

Mr Morrison has reprimanded the organisation for repeating procedural errors and “wasting time”, which he says put Capital Football behind the eight-ball on training restrictions.

“Board meeting after board meeting discusses the replicate topics and agenda items as decisions are brought back to be procedurally fixed,” he wrote in his withdrawal letter.

“This has wasted so much time that many football items have been glazed over or missed while the board deals with items for a third or fourth time…..The board is beset with groupthink and considers anyone that challenges its views as an adversary.”

The viability of the 2020 football season is still unclear, with only groups of 10 people currently being allowed to train in the ACT. Chief Minister Andrew Barr has flagged that this limit would be increased to 20 people by the end of the month, but contact sports are still off the table at the moment.

The increased numbers would still not be enough for an 11-a-side football game, plus reserves and officials. A three-round format was being considered by Capital Football for the NPL1, but this has since been reduced to two, Mr Nicoletti said.

“There are still a lot of ifs and buts, is it worth it? I am not sure,” Mr Nicoletti said. “For me, I would like to see it go back because as a grassroots sport it is important to get back out into the community and have the game played at a senior level.”

Delays to the season are further complicated when winter and summer sports seasons begin to overlap and sports compete for access to sporting grounds and training facilities.

Angelo Konstantinou and Justin Webb were elected to the board at Wednesday’s AGM.

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