The FA and SWPL have provided an update for ‘non-elite’ football in England following the UK Government’s announcement on new national COVID-19 restrictions that will be in place from Thursday 5 November 2020 until Wednesday 2 December 2020.
As a result of the UK Government’s new national COVID-19 restrictions, and subject to Members of Parliament voting tomorrow [Wednesday 4 November 2020] and the publication of bespoke guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport [DCMS], the impact on ‘non elite’ football in England will include the suspension of the following during this period:
- All fixtures and training for Steps 3-6 of the National League System [NLS];
- All fixtures and training for Tiers 3-7 of the Women’s Football Pyramid [WFP];
- All fixtures and training for the Regional NLS Feeder Leagues;
- All fixtures and training for The Barclays FA WSL Academy League;
- All fixtures and training for FA Girls Regional Talent Clubs;
- All fixtures and training for indoor and outdoor youth and adult grassroots football.
The FA’s aim is to ensure that the 2020-21 season is completed at these levels and will liaise with the relevant leagues in the NLS and WFP and the County Football Associations [CFAs] to provide support and establish appropriate options to do so if required.
The UK Government has confirmed that school sport can continue as an exemption during this period.
In addition, the UK Government has confirmed that all Emirates FA Cup First Round fixtures will go ahead as planned this weekend between Friday 6 and Monday 9 November 2020. The ten ‘non-elite’ clubs that remain in the competition will be able to play their fixtures under ‘elite’ protocols. In line with the new national COVID-19 restrictions, these ‘non-elite’ teams are only permitted to train together until Wednesday 4 November 2020.
Further updates on fixtures and dates for the 2020-21 Vitality Women’s FA Cup, FA Youth Cup, Buildbase FA Trophy and Buildbase FA Vase will follow in due course.
Re-starting football at these levels has taken substantial determination and commitment from stakeholders across the game and we would like to thank everyone for their vital contributions. However, health and wellbeing remain the priority, so it is extremely important that clubs, players, coaches, match officials, league officials, volunteers, parents, carers and facility providers adhere to the UK Government’s new national COVID-19 restrictions during this period.
We remain in dialogue with the DCMS, leagues, competitions and CFAs and will provide further clarification for ‘non-elite’ football in England following the debate in the House of Commons tomorrow.
Ensure you check out The FA’s non-elite football FAQs for all the latest details.
As widely expected since the Govt announcement on Saturday evening, it is now confirmed that non-elite sport, like the SWP, must cease for the duration of the national restrictions. In short this means NO games, training etc etc from Thursday 5th November until at least Wednesday 2nd December.
During the past few days awaiting the official announcement, I have been working on the impact of this likely scenario, and have made some plans for it. In particular we will directly lose 102 scheduled games in the two Step 6 Divisions during this time period. In addition the impact of the FA Vase being pushed back will add a few more, and with us already being 69 games behind last year we will (hopefully) re-start on December 5th but some 9 weeks BEHIND schedule (approx 180 games).
There will be just 22 Saturdays from December 5th to May 1st inclusive, yet not one of the 40 clubs will have played 16 games (22 + 16 being a 38 game season), a couple of clubs are still in single figures and a further 4 are still in the FA Vase.
The short term future also remains questionable, with several unanswerable questions – will we actually be able to play on from December 5th ? Will clubs still be reporting covid cases and asking for postponements ? Will there be further restrictions in the New Year ? and that’s before the usual concern about December / January / February and the Great British weather!
We must try to remain optimistic and plan ahead which means fixtures in November will be re-scheduled over the next few days (I have already started work on that), but equally an adult conversation will have to be made about whether a full season is achievable this time around, and whether it would be better to plan for a full season in 2021/22 starting in August, than drag this one on through May or even June. There are no easy answers, and frankly any plan drawn up now could still be scuppered by events through the actual winter (Dec to Feb).
In closing however, getting away from the above, can I wish everyone connected with the league and the member clubs the very best of health. Please observe the 28 day lockdown, stay safe, care for your family and friends and above all remember, despite popular folklore, football is NOT “more important than life & death!”
As a Club we will bring you all the very latest news regarding this topic and have everything crossed that we can return to normal service from 2nd December.
In the meantime, please take care of yourself, your family and friends and please keep an eye out for each other during these challenging times.