There are also two National Youth League matches scheduled for Saturday in Gosford and Sydney, with all competitions subject to the same policies relating to player welfare.
The A-League and W-League do not have a firm policy relating to air quality – mostly because, until now, there has not been a requirement for one. In recent weeks, administrators have relied on the Asian Football Confederation’s guidelines but there are fears the threshhold is too high as it is designed for use across Asia, where pollution and smog is far more common.
“We’ve never needed a policy in this area,” said A-League chief Greg O’Rourke. “We’re monitoring it very closely, we are building a policy around it, we’re taking advice from experts and we’re liaising with the clubs and the PFA.”
Decisions around whether this weekend’s matches will proceed as planned will be made on the day. An air quality index of 200 or more is likely to lead to a postponement, O’Rourke said.
Current competition regulations include a catch-all provision for matches to be abandoned or paused when weather conditions are hazardous, but the A-League has been keeping tabs on air quality readings since the NSW bushfires first presented the issue.
Earlier this month, the Newcastle Jets had to reschedule training sessions because of the bushfire haze in the Hunter region.
Air quality was being monitored by football authorities prior to the men’s and women’s double-header at Bankwest Stadium two weeks ago – on that night the W-League fixture had to be briefly abandoned because of a passing thunderstorm, leading to a delayed kick-off for the A-League clash.
A spokesperson for PFA said the union had raised the matter with FFA to ensure a protocol was in place to track the air quality index this weekend.
“Clearly these are extraordinary circumstances that present unique health challenges and require coaches, clubs and anybody involved in hosting matches or training to exercise common sense,” the spokesperson said.
The A-League is also monitoring Sunday’s match between Adelaide United and the Newcastle Jets at Coopers Stadium, with a forecast temperature of 36 degrees at kick-off in Adelaide. A decision on whether kick-off will be delayed due to excessive heat is expected to be made on Friday.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.