Last week the Football Association issued a statement concerning the need to follow social distancing guidance, in a bid to support the great work Leagues and Clubs have undertaken to keep football being played.
The agreement negotiated between the FA and the Department for Culture Media and Sport means that the game of football is not considered a “close contact” by the social distancing regulations, as long as Clubs continue to fully implement their risk assessments. A failure to implement these risk assessments is likely to result in matches being postponed and players and spectators self-isolating, in line with Test and Trace guidance.
As COVID restrictions nationally become tighter, the footballing authorities are becoming increasingly aware of instances where players and spectators are stretching or even ignoring the guidance. Whilst the Clubs and the Leagues do not have the power of enforcement, the Police do have the power to fine individuals for persistent breaches of the guidance. Local councils have also been given a suite of powers to close down premises, stop events and shut down parks if they are concerned about threats to public safety.
Following on from the FA announcement last week, the Toolstation Western League has issued specific guidance to its Clubs, urging players and managers to lead by example, supporting Club volunteers to ensure matches are COVID safe. In its statement to Clubs, the League has highlighted the importance of a number of measures, including:
- Extra seating in technical areas to ensure the occupants remain at a safe distance from each other and spectators.
- Teams must follow the advice of the home sides Risk Assessment and ensure only the maximum number of players and support staff enter the changing room at any given time.
- If players have to car share they should do so with the same individuals on each occasion. Where minibuses are used, everyone should wear a face mask and use hand cleanser before and after entry.
- Spectators must respect the rule of 6 and maintain social distancing at all times, inside and outside the clubhouse.
Western League matches rely on the support of unpaid matchday stewards, who now find themselves on the frontline of reminding spectators about their responsibilities. The Western League is urging all spectators and Club Officials to respect and support the difficult task these volunteers now face.
Western League COVID Officer, George McCaffery, said; “By not maintaining the guidelines and most importantly of all, the social distance, if there is a positive test within the club the risk of numerous people needing to self isolate increases greatly.
If we want to keep playing we are all going to need to work together. If you see something you’re not happy with on a matchday, please raise it with a Club Official.”
Episode 3 of the Toolstation Western League Podcast will feature an interview with George McCaffery, where he will explain what players, managers and spectators can do to help keep non-league football COVID secure.