Lancashire FA have today issued a statement with regard to the “Resumption of Football”.
This statement has been provided to offer as much clarity as possible for club/League/Football volunteers/Participants/Parents-Carers/ and indeed everyone involved with or affected by our football in Lancashire.
It is incumbent on us all to play our part in keeping our family, friends, communities, as safe as possible, whilst at the same time, still being able to engage in our wonderful sport, albeit currently to varying degrees.
The statement, is self-explanatory and is for the information and attention of everyone engaged in football across Lancashire County FA.
In common with all our football community we were delighted to see a further easing of Covid19 restrictions which allowed contact training in July, and friendly games and festivals to resume in August paving the way for a return to competitive league football from the beginning of September. However, in recent days it has become apparent that several boroughs within the county are witnessing growing rates of viral transmission which have, in some cases, seen the easing of restrictions being postponed indefinitely. In at least one of these local authorities the current guidelines mirror those in place nationally earlier in the summer when training was expected to have a maximum of thirty attendees in “bubbles” of six with no contact between participants.
We believe that as the governing body for football in Lancashire we do not just have a responsibility to the game at all levels but also to wider society. We must constantly make sure that football plays an active part in eradicating the virus by ensuring the guidance we issue does not contravene or conflict with either national or local conditions. An additional, significant complexity we face is that friendly matches and festivals have the potential to involve participants and family members from different boroughs which may face different levels of restrictions. Furthermore, players may live in one borough but play for a team in another.
As a result of the current situation and the request from clubs for direction we are issuing the following guidance with immediate effect:
Blackburn with Darwen
Clubs contained within the borough should NOT arrange any friendly games until further notice as this contravenes local measures imposed by the government which refer to groups of six people and a maximum gathering of thirty. Training should be in groups of six (in youth football each group must contain a DBS qualified coach) and should be non-contact based with no interaction between those “bubbles.” Hygiene standards should be rigorous, and all present should be registered should there be a need for track and trace. Clubs from outside this borough should decline any invitations to play friendly matches with BwD clubs until further notice. There will be no festivals or tournaments sanctioned in the borough until further notice as a result.
Clubs sited in other boroughs, notably but not exclusively Oldham, Rochdale, Pendle, Burnley, Rossendale and Hyndburn should be mindful of the recent rise in Covid cases in the locality and should ensure they are taking all necessary precautions at all times to mitigate risk and hence protect participants and the wider community. It is critical that clubs fully brief all coaches to ensure that the guidelines are strictly adhered to at all times, with robust hygiene standards and registration of attendees, so football can make a positive contribution to preventing further lockdown measures in those areas. Should clubs in these local authorities reflect that they are not happy with resuming football in the current climate, we would support that decision. We reserve the right to amend the above advice if the situation worsens and local measures are introduced.
The FA published its most recent guidance nearly two weeks ago. It can be found here. This guidance allows for friendlies and other pre-season fixtures to commence from 1st August. However, it is critical that all clubs have robust risk assessments in place including the facility to track attendees and ensure high hygiene standards are in place throughout. Any clubs who have doubts about the measures in place at a venue or for a specific fixture might wish to carefully consider their participation. Please note we will not be formally sanctioning pre-season fixtures at this time due to resource implications. It remains the club’s responsibility to ensure that opponents are affiliated for 2020-21. If there is uncertainty, and this is a Lancashire club, we can confirm this with you.
Leagues may decide to use this period to complete cup competitions from the 2019-20 season. This is allowed under the guidance, but very careful consideration needs to be given to ensuring that attendance is regulated and managed and it does not run the risk of becoming a free-for-all where registering attendees becomes impossible and social distancing cannot be observed. Leagues may wish as a compromise to complete these fixtures “behind closed doors” if a private venue is being used.
Tournaments and Festivals
Once again, the new FA guidance permits the organisation of tournaments and festivals from August onwards. Other than in Blackburn with Darwen we are prepared to sanction tournaments provided they have been carefully considered in terms of mitigating risk, minimising the size of the gathering and hygiene provision. The FA guidance above is explicit in its expectations of clubs in paying proper attention to these critical areas. This year due to available resources we will not be scrutinising the list of participating clubs. However, as an absolute minimum before sanctioning a tournament we expect the following to be in place:
As in any other year any clubs hosting or participating in unsanctioned tournaments face having their affiliation suspended pending an inquiry into safeguarding standards. Referees officiating in unsanctioned tournaments may face suspension of fixtures. A sanctioned tournament assures clubs that insurance cover is in place, all volunteers have been safely recruited and vetted, and that the FA discipline system is available should it be required.
We are all delighted that there is light at the end of the long Covid19 tunnel. However, if we are all to emerge into that light as soon as possible, it is incumbent on all of us to be responsible and work within the guidelines at all times. If we ride roughshod over them now, we risk a very real return to the dark days of March and April. Please ensure all club volunteers are fully aware of expectations and their responsibilities at all times, and that, in the youth game, all adults are acting as role models to our youngest stakeholders.
Let’s treat this pandemic with respect. Let’s treat the game with respect. Let’s treat each other and our communities with respect. Enjoy your football!