Southern Utd rules out contesting premiership

Southern United striker Joel Stevens scores in the second half of his side's match against Tasman...
Joel Stevens scores for Southern United last year. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Southern United will not enter a men’s team in this year’s national football premiership.

The impact of coronavirus meant it was not realistic to field a team in this year’s league, club chief executive Chris Wright said yesterday.

Southern would field teams in the national women’s and futsal leagues — both of which have been reduced in length.

New Zealand Football confirmed yesterday the men’s national premiership would run as a six-month season.

It had given the clubs flexibility, and the ability to withdraw from this season at no risk to their spot for next season.

Tasman United was also not entering.

The two clubs were working with Mainland Football to form a potential South Island team.

That would probably be based in Christchurch, although more would be known in the coming weeks.

Wright admitted it was a tough decision.

However, it was a massive commitment both from an operational and financial perspective.

Both had impacts on Football South in recent months — being down on staff and many funding sources not being available.

"It’s a little bit sad because we always pride ourselves on making steps forward each year," he said.

"It does feel like a step backwards, not being able to continue the journey we’ve been on.

"The players and staff have given so much for it.

"But as much as it’s sad, it is 100% the right decision.

"It’s just not possible for us to be part of it this year given the impacts of coronavirus.

"We’ve just got to accept that as reality this year, unfortunately."

Wright said the club’s investment in its men’s and women’s teams was similar on a weekly basis.

However, the length of the men’s league meant the cost was substantially higher.

This year’s women’s league would begin on October 31, the final to be played on December 19.

He was viewing the absence as a one-year hiatus.

However, given the uncertainty around the national league’s future in general, he was not in a position to speculate about the future.

The players he had spoken to had been disappointed, although they understood the position.

Among them were Danny Ledwith and Stephen Last, who had committed to the region long-term, Wright said.

They were in the group of five Irishman that arrived in the region in 2016, played for the franchise and worked as development officers for Football South.

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