Soccer-Australian clubs can play through international breaks

(Reuters) - The A-League said it intends to finish the season on schedule despite disruptions caused by surging COVID-19 cases and that clubs will be permitted to play during the January and March international breaks.

The regular season is due to conclude on May 1 and the grand final is to be held on May 28 or the following day.

"Our intention is to continue and play the season by the end of May but if we have to be flexible with the window, we will," Australian Professional Leagues chief executive Danny Townsend told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"We will be playing through the international breaks, that will carry on through March, so that will give us an extra round that wasn't originally scheduled."

Four games scheduled for last weekend were among nine postponed so far, with more upheaval expected in the coming weeks.

The competition had been due to pause for the national team's participation in Asia's World Cup preliminaries when they resume next month.

Graham Arnold's side face Vietnam in Melbourne on Jan. 27 before travelling to Muscat to meet Oman five days later. They also host Japan on March 24 before completing the third round of qualifiers in Saudi Arabia on March 29.

Melbourne City duo Mathew Leckie and Jamie Maclaren, as well as Rhyan Grant of Sydney FC, were the only Australia-based players included in the squad when Arnold's team faced China in their most recent qualifier in November.

Townsend said coaches would be able to request postponements if their squads are hit hard by COVID-19.

"If the coach wants to play, the game goes ahead," he said.

"However, the club has the option to ask for a postponement if they have five or more players from the previous match team sheet that are out with COVID."

(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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