A-League season-opener delayed after COVID-19 outbreak

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(Reuters) - Sunday's A-League game between Western Sydney Wanderers and Macarthur FC, which would have been the season-opener, was pushed back three days due to COVID-19 restrictions in Sydney over Christmas, Football Australia (FA) said on Wednesday.

The A-League season will now begin with a game between Western United and Adelaide United at GMHBA Stadium on Dec. 28. The Wanderers will face Macarthur on Dec. 30 at Bankwest Stadium.

An outbreak of the novel coronavirus, centred on Sydney's northern beaches, has grown to 97 cases and parts of the city remain under lockdown. New South Wales on Wednesday, though, relaxed coronavirus restrictions for Christmas.

"We have worked closely with the NSW Government to ensure that the A-League ... will go ahead as planned with the best possible experience for fans and players within the current restrictions," FA's Head of Leagues, Greg O'Rourke said in a statement.

The capacity for all games in NSW will be reduced by 50% until the end of December.

"Moving the matches back three days with a reduced capacity supports the Government's risk mitigation plan in relation to crowds and to mobility around the city during this Christmas period and New Year's Eve," O'Rourke said.

FA on Tuesday reshuffled the early rounds of the A-League season to ensure NSW-based teams play each other. Those based outside of NSW can compete with each other without border restrictions.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Hogue)