Country football-netball leagues are staring at significant financial pain with strict crowd limits expected to be in place when finals matches start in less than a month.
The Ovens and Murray, Tallangatta and District and Upper Murray leagues are not resuming this weekend post the latest Victorian COVID-19 lockdown with the no spectator for community sport edict from the state government a major contributing factor.
Crowds still can't attend next weekend when they plan to resume playing.
The Victorian government allowed crowds of 1000 at country matches after the June lockdown, but finals traditionally attract much larger crowds and are a major revenue source for leagues with dividends then distributed among clubs.
The O and M has another road block to overcome in Melbourne-based players unable to play at NSW venues where crowds of 3000 people are allowed.
'If our worst fears are realised and we can't get crowds through the gate we'll strip out all discretionary spending to mitigate what would be a significant loss," O and M chairman David Sinclair said.
"We're currently doing some modelling to see what this looks like.
"The absolute worse case scenario is they will go ahead and we just take as many of the costs out as we can without crowds able to go with significant enough numbers through the gate
"But as it stands right now it is a long way from zero to 3000, 5000 and around 10,000 for a grand final you need to cover costs."
TDFL president Rex Gray said no finals crowds could become a "financial disaster" not just in North-East Victoria, but across the state.
The league has already submitted an application for 7500 people to attend the finals.
The TDFL plays all its finals matches including the grand final at Sandy Creek and as such has less cross-border complications compared to the O and M.
"We've just got to wait for as long as we can to make a decision," Mr Gray said.
"We've got our application in already for tier 2 exemption of up to 7500 people and they haven't rung us up and told us to start again.
"We're going to do everything we can to get it over the line.
"But (crowd sizes) is our next concern, how is it going to look, do we proceed or don't we proceed.
"Every league in the state needs money and needs capital behind you to operate."
The 2019 O and M grand final attracted an official crowd of 8112 people with the figure close to 1000 more than the previous year.
Gate-takings of $64,637 in 2019 eclipsed the $57,783 figure of 12 months earlier.
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The grand final was played at Wangaratta's Norm Minns Oval in 2018-19 due to the $19.6 million Lavington Sportsground redevelopment.
The Wangaratta venue is poised to host the grand final again this year.
TDFL grand final gate-takings hover around the $45,000 mark.
AFL North-East Border regional manager Zac Guilfoyle said finals series formats were a major discussion point behind the scenes.
"The importance of the finals series is paramount to the importance of each league's viability going forward," he said.
"We will do everything we can to support leagues so they can deliver a finals series.
"Every league hasn't had a finals series for two years and is the biggest source of revenue."
The Border Mail understands AFL Victoria is pushing for a 1000 limit when crowds can return in a fortnight.
AFLNEB administer the TDFL, Ovens and King and Albury-Wodonga and Wangaratta junior competitions.
The Ovens and King league has agreed to play this weekend without crowds and hopes to complete its season with grand final scheduled for September 11.
The TDFL grand final is also scheduled to take place on September 11 with two home and away rounds remaining.
The AWJFL season has been pushed out for two weeks to compensate for lost rounds to date and medal count arrangements are also up in the air in most leagues due to venue restrictions in place on both sides of the border.
Umpires have agreed to take a 10 per cent pay cut across border leagues for the next two weeks.
In a separate development, this week's exclusion of Jerilderie from the border bubble has had a harsh impact on the town's football-netball club.
The Demons have been forced to cancel their Picola League matches against Tungamah on Saturday.
They were originally going to play at home but then shifted the clashes to Berrigan before the local council imposed restrictions.
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