Last month’s announcement of the return of grassroots football was welcomed with great enthusiasm by all of our participants. Like us, many of our clubs, leagues, officials, coaches and volunteers are excited to be able to get back to the game which we all love later this month.
However, whilst this date is fast approaching, we must not forget that we remain in a national lockdown as we seek to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with this, The FA’s current guidance remains and as such, no football should be taking place at this time and up to the 29th March at the earliest, with this being the earliest date that Government has indicated grassroots sport may return.
The specific details of this return and any associated guidance remain subject to the ongoing discussions between The FA and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) at this time.
We understand and share in the excitement of our participants as this date moves closer. As a result of the date for return being shared a number of weeks prior, many Surrey clubs and organisations have begun planning their return to football activities; be this through training, matches or even beginning to plan tournaments and festivals from Easter through to the 2021/22 pre-season.
We are well aware of the financial, footballing, and health (both mental & physical) benefits of which these events, sessions, or groups provide. However, until the guidance on the return to football is published and we know exactly what kind of activities may take place in-line with the gradual easing of restrictions, we would encourage clubs and organisations operating within Surrey to take a step back and evaluate the need to rush back on 29th March.
We would advise that those who have planned soccer schools, training sessions, friendlies or festivals for the first weeks back reconsider these activities until we have all received the guidance from The FA & DCMS. Once we have this, we will all have a greater understanding of any limitations or rulings around gatherings and the structure of groups within a football environment. This could heavily impact your ability to deliver what you may be looking to plan.
As we have maintained throughout the pandemic, we believe that our large grassroots football community has a wider social responsibility to protect the most vulnerable within society. We have come so far, and now is not the point at which to abandon our resolve, and we must continue to minimise the spread of COVID-19 as the national vaccination scheme continues.
For those clubs who are seeking to arrange a tournament or festival, we would like to remind all clubs and potential organisers that there is a prescribed process to follow in arranging a festival and in turn having it sanctioned by the County FA. In addition, even if FA guidance allows such events to take place, they would remain subject to any additional conditions that may be put into effect by local authorities or site operators.
We shall continue to work hard to share any updates to FA guidance in a timely manner once this becomes available to us and ensure this reaches all of our participants. We will also seek to ensure that our own position is aligned with that of our neighbouring County FAs.