Professional sporting clubs right around Australia are waiting patiently to learn exactly what their responsibilities will be when it comes to vaccination and future entry into other states.
For the A-League, such information is vital on the eve of a new season and with more than half of the overall Australian population still to be immunised twice.
When formal confirmation is eventually received as to exactly what those interstate vaccination expectations will be, the new guidelines will have a significant impact on professional teams’ fluidity of movement around the country, as well as an individual athlete’s right to participate in professional sport at all.
For sports currently in the final weeks of their seasons and those soon to enter recess, time will be available for not only the players to consider their personal health choices, but also for the administrative arms to formulate policies and procedures that ensure all players are either a) vaccinated and unconditionally permitted to travel or b) otherwise legally entitled to enter other jurisdictions via some, exemption, condition or, dare I say, loophole.
Quite frankly, the most likely outcome for athletes competing in sports that require interstate travel will almost certainly be a double dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Should anything else permit entry, such as the sort of exemptions granted to over paid footballers and their families over the last 12 months, public sentiment could well reach an unprecedented level of disgust.
While most Australians understood the efforts made to keep sports up and running during the extended lockdown periods that have frustrated and strained people across much of the east coast of Australia, once borders come down, the same double standard cannot apply.
In a reopened economy, the simple ‘pub test’ will become the measure. If a citizen is not permitted to travel interstate without a double dose of vaccination, why on earth should a professional sportsperson be allowed to do so?
Australians would undoubtedly shout in numbers that after having their vaccinations in order to travel, see families and return to something near normal life, any sportsperson hoping to move fluidly around the nation and earn their wage while playing the sport they love should be forced to do exactly the same.
In short, the sentiment will be, “We’ve received the vaccine, as should you.” The argument from mainstream Australia will simply be that the athletes who refuse to vaccinate should stay at home and potentially see their contracts torn to shreds for failing to comply with the expectations set out for the vast majority of Australians.
However, the reality is that there will be a portion of A-League players unwilling to accept the vaccine and thus present a difficult and convoluted situation for the powers at be when the borders do indeed open and our competition again demands interstate travel.
At least one significant A-League star has been outspoken and consistent in his anti-vaccination views via social media. Everyone has seen his commentary yet no one is quite sure where that leaves him when the league begins and he is required to board a flight to another state that, depending on the jurisdiction, may not permit him to enter the region.
The Northern Territory has been explicit in its intention to deny access to any person attempting to enter the state without two vaccinations. Other states are expected to follow that lead and formalise such a requirement as economies begin to reopen next month.
That sets up a frightfully awkward scenario for the A-League, where in the coming months, non-vaccinated players may well be denied entry to certain states and the legality of such enforcements a dream for the litigiously minded.
Can states demand that anyone crossing their border be vaccinated, let alone enforce such in the High Court? If not, does a serious human rights issue come to bear for those with an objection to taking the jab?
And most importantly for the A-League, can the career of a professional sportsperson be compromised based on the rules and regulations implemented by a state jurisdiction without the over-arching approval and support of the High Court?
The answers to all of the above appear well beyond me and probably most of the people reading this. However, Hamilton will re-open in Sydney on October 19th, suggesting strongly that crowds in outdoor venues will also be permitted around the same time and the A-League season clear to begin with fans in stadiums soon after.
Vaccinated fans will be keen to attend, yet the question around the participation of un-vaccinated players remains a compelling one.