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Sport

A-League's midnight dash for the border foiled by fog

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Football Federation Australia (FFA) will be forced to request exemptions to allow Melbourne’s three A-League clubs into New South Wales for the rest of the season after failing to get them out of Victoria on Monday.

After a spike in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, the border between Victoria and New South Wales will be closed for an indefinite period from midnight on Tuesday. For Melbourne residents the closure came 24 hours earlier.

In a desperate attempt to get out of the southern state before the closure, the Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Western United teams were loaded on to a charter flight heading north to Canberra on Monday evening.

The plan was scuppered, however, when fog forced the closure of the airport in the Australian capital and the plane remained stranded on the tarmac in Melbourne.

“As a result, we will now begin the process to seek exemptions from the New South Wales government to allow the teams to enter New South Wales for them to continue their season,” A-League chief Greg O’Rourke said in a statement.

“If we find it necessary to revise the match schedule we will do so accordingly and will announce once confirmed, however at this time the schedule remains the same.”

The A-League season was interrupted in mid-March after the first wave of coronavirus infections in Australia but will resume on July 16 with six rounds and the championship playoffs left to play.

New South Wales deputy Premier John Barilaro indicated on Tuesday that the exemptions would be forthcoming.

“I’ll be reaching out to the FFA today and see what support they need,” he told SBS TV. “And yes, if there’s an opportunity to do so, let’s bring them over the border ... and make sure they are part of the A-League.”

Ten Australian rules, one rugby union and one rugby league team from Melbourne have all left the state to ensure their leagues can continue.

Five Victoria-based motorsports teams successfully got out of the state in a convoy on Monday and will relocate to Sydney, where the next round of the Supercars championship takes place on July 18-19.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Richard Pullin

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