Following the receipt of the updated guidance for grassroots football, received on the evening of Tuesday 1 December, please find below an update on football in Staffordshire and some additional context with regards to questions raised over the last 24 hours.
The Football Association have issued updated guidance for ‘non-elite’ football in England following confirmation from the UK Government that organised sports can return from Wednesday 2 December.
Please click here for the latest guidance for grassroots football
On the evening of Monday 30 November, Staffordshire FA organised a meeting for leagues across the county in order to seek the views of league volunteers as we collectively waited on the updated guidance for ‘non-elite’ football. One of the key discussion points was around the decision on whether to organise league fixtures prior to Christmas. During those discussions it was apparent that several factors were being taken into consideration, including the following:
- Many participants across the game, including volunteers, referees, coaches and players, have made their leagues and the Staffordshire FA aware that they are uncomfortable about returning to the game in the short-term.
- The health and wellbeing of everyone involved in the game and the potential impact of Covid-19 over the festive period, e.g. the possibility of volunteers, players, coaches, parents and referees, contracting Covid-19 and having to self-isolate away from their families over the festive period.
- Reducing the spread of the virus in the local area and the subsequent impact that has on the NHS and local hospitals, which in some parts of Staffordshire is now reaching critical levels, examples below.
- The additional strain that football can potentially put on the NHS and local hospitals at this critical time, e.g. injured players omitted to A&E.
- Many leagues advised that they have a two-week break from fixtures over the festive period, which would result in some leagues having only two weekends of fixtures ahead of that break over the festive period.
Taking all the above into account, most leagues across Staffordshire collectively agreed to take the difficult decision to postpone league fixtures until January 2021. Staffordshire FA support all our leagues with their respective decisions, which we believe have been made for the right reasons with parts of Staffordshire experiencing some of the highest infection rates across the country.
Off the back of these very difficult discussions, many leagues have communicated this message to their member clubs and have received an unacceptable level of abuse, particularly on social media. Leagues across Staffordshire are made of up a network on hardworking, dedicated volunteers, and this level of criticism towards people and organisations who are making difficult decisions for the benefit of everyone in their local community is unjust. These decisions have been made in consultation with all other leagues across Staffordshire and the Staffordshire FA, and we fully support our leagues and the volunteer workforce who underpin them. Facilitating grassroots football is at the heart of everything we collectively do, and we will be working hard over the coming days and weeks to ensure that football activity can resume as quickly as possible.
As per the updated guidance received last night, organised sport can return from Wednesday 2 December, including training sessions and friendly matches. Organised outdoor football activity is permitted across all three tiers from Wednesday 2 December, but it is extremely important that clubs, players, coaches, match officials, league officials, volunteers, parents, carers, and facility providers continue to strictly follow both the UK Government's latest guidance on COVID-19 and respective bespoke guidance documents from The FA.
Click here for the updated COVID-19 guidance for non-elite football
Whilst we are undoubtedly aware of the disappointment many people have expressed with regards to the postponement of league fixtures, the opportunity to embrace training sessions and potential friendly games ahead of league fixtures resuming, hopefully provides a great opportunity for those players and teams wishing to play football over the coming days and weeks. A reminder once again that it is extremely important that everyone continues to strictly follow both the UK Government's latest guidance on COVID-19 and respective bespoke guidance documents from The FA, to ensure that we keep each other and our local communities safe.
Should any clubs have any questions or queries with regards to training sessions or friendly matches, please do not hesitate to contact Staffordshire FA via: firstname.lastname@example.org