Three A-League clubs stranded in Melbourne due to a spike in coronavirus cases have received the all-clear to fly to New South Wales on Saturday after recording negative coronavirus tests, sources have told ESPN.
The decision that the three Melbourne-based sides would be able to fly north comes as concerns mounted that plans to restart the 2019-20 season could be derailed.
Players from Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Western United were left stranded on the tarmac on Monday after fog at Canberra Airport prevented a late-night attempt to get out of Victoria before border closures for Melbourne metropolitan residents and on Tuesday a strict quarantine ruling stopped a second attempt to fly out.
On Thursday night, the New South Wales government granted the three Melbourne clubs an exemption to enter the state pending the return of negative coronavirus tests.
"The past five days have once again demonstrated just how quickly the coronavirus landscape can change," Melbourne Victory CEO Trent Jacobs said on Friday.
"In particular, the events of Monday and Tuesday night have been incredibly frustrating and compromised our players and staff. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank our players, coaches, staff and all their families for the exceptional way in which they've handled the challenges and unknowns of this extremely stressful week.
"While our club was disappointed with what transpired, we have remained focused on working together with FFA and the Victorian clubs to find a solution."
Squads will be able to train together as a unit as part of the quarantine agreement reached with authorities and clubs will operate out of Valentine Sports Park -- with Club Marconi a potential back-up option -- once they arrive in Sydney.
"There have been ongoing discussions between the clubs, ourselves and FFA," Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) co-chair Beau Busch told ESPN.
"I think where we've arrived is at an outcome where the players are satisfied, they're eager to get up there, so I think everyone is pretty comfortable with where we're at."
Victory had been slated to kick off the re-commencement of the 2019-20 season on Thursday against Western, but the 14-day quarantine period imposed by the New South Wales government will now force fixtures to be rescheduled.
"Given the necessary 14-day quarantine period, our July 16 fixture against Western United will most likely be rescheduled," Jacobs said.
"We are working with the FFA on an updated fixture and once we have confirmation, we will provide you with a further update.
"Our players and staff are looking forward to getting to Sydney for the resumption of the A-League season, and our focus will remain on preparing for our five remaining matches and finishing the season strongly."
The inability of the A-League to get its clubs out of Victoria, in stark contrast to the AFL, NRL, Super Rugby and even V8 Supercars competitions, has drawn criticism.
The PFA said in a statement on Wednesday that the process had suffered from a "lack of clarity" and featured "ad-hoc planning" and "shifting commitments."
On Thursday, A-League chief Greg O'Rourke admitted his tenure could be under threat.
"That's fair, that's a normal sort of reaction," he said. "I don't expect any other feedback and I also accept that's exactly what might even happen, to be honest.
"If it means in the end for people to want to lose my role ... that's a possibility that is for others, but until that happens -- if that happens -- I'm going to be solely focused on getting that exemption, on getting the game back on the pitch, finishing the 27 games and the final series and delivering the A-League."
Despite the pressure, however, New South Wales-based club CEO's have supported O'Rourke, with Sydney FC CEO Danny Townsend and Newcastle Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna posting statements on Twitter defending his handling of the situation.
Central Coast Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp also told FTBL that "he's got the job done and it was a bumpy ride.
"My personal opinion is that every CEO is supportive of Greg O'Rourke knowing the challenges he's had to face. This was the one that was public."
Busch, who alongside Kate Gill was named as co-chair of the PFA on Thursday following the departure of John Didulica, admitted that it was a difficult situation for O'Rourke.
"It's incredibly complex, and it has been for a significant amount of time," he told ESPN on the handling of the situation.
"In the normal course of business, we're concerned with working with our own football stakeholders but what COVID's meant is that the game is often in the hands or at the whims of others.
"I think it's been an incredibly difficult week. I've had a lot of discussions with Greg and he's had discussions with players as well. It's obviously been difficult for everyone involved.
"It's more a matter now that we can move forward now, that's critical for the game. Obviously the past has been difficult and been far from ideal but I think right now it's more a sense of relief, to be honest."