The Football Association has now released guidelines for outdoor football in a UK Government-approved plan. The grassroots football community can now breathe a sigh of relief. The guidelines were issued ahead of the start of the new season.
The COVID-19 pandemic had put a hold on all sports and football is now looking to restart on a new foot.
UK Government approves FA plan for outdoor football.
The FA made the announcement on Friday saying, "We've been working hard over recent weeks to prepare guidelines for the safe return of grassroots football and, following Government approval, these are now ready for publication."
Due to COVID-19 however, there have been some changes as to how the game will be carried out and training as well.
The schedule for training and matches is as such:
- Until 31 July – When ready, you can begin competitive training, with the overall group size (inclusive of coaches) being limited to 30 people;
- From August – Competitive matches to begin, for example pre-season fixtures, festivals and small sided football competitions;
- From September – Grassroots leagues, men's National League System, Women's Football Pyramid tiers 3 to 6, and FA Competitions can commence.
Competitive football will resume the FA said only when clubs and facility providers will have completed and passed risk assessments with comprehensive plans in place.
Some of the important points were that all players and coaches would have to self-assess COVID-19 symptoms ahead of a session or match. Furthermore, all government legislations will have to be followed.
The FA also issued a summary of key points in the guidelines:
- Everyone should self-assess for COVID-19 symptoms before every training session or match. If you are symptomatic or living in a household with possible or actual COVID-19 infection you must not participate or attend;
- Clubs and facility providers should ensure that their facility is compliant with current Government legislation and guidance related to COVID-19;
- Competitive training is now permitted, with groups limited to a maximum of 30 people, including coaches;
- Competitive match play is permitted, with social distancing in place before and after the match, and in any breaks in play;
- Players and officials should sanitise hands before and after a game as well as scheduled breaks throughout a game or training session;
- Ball handling should be kept to a minimum with most contact via a boot and the ball disinfected in breaks of play;
- Youth football coaches are encouraged to limit persistent close proximity of participants during match play and training;
- Goal celebrations should be avoided;
- Equipment should not be shared, and goalkeepers should ensure they disinfect their gloves regularly in breaks in training or matches and thoroughly afterwards. Where possible, coaches should only handle equipment in training;
- Where possible, players, coaches and officials should arrive changed and shower at home. Use of changing and shower facilities must follow government advice on the use of indoor facilities;
- Participants should follow best practice for travel including minimising use of public transport and walking or cycling if possible. People from a household or support bubble can travel together in a vehicle
- Clubs should keep a record of attendees at a match or training session, including contact details, to support NHS Test and Trace;
- Clubs should ensure they are affiliated with their County Football Association.
However, indoor football and Futsal is still not permitted and guidelines for indoor formats of the game are still being discussed.
James Kendall, Director of Football Development at The FA, said on the matter in the statement: "We're delighted that the Government has given the go-ahead for competitive grassroots football to return. The past few months have been some of the most challenging times not just for football, but across society, and today's news will be welcomed by the grassroots football community all over the country."