Grassroots football in Preston and South Ribble suspended until January

Posted on - 5th December, 2020 - 4:21pm | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston News, Ribble Valley News, South Ribble News, Sport
An amateur football game in Preston Pic: Jim Beattie
An amateur football game in Preston Pic: Jim Beattie

The governing body for amateur football in Preston and Lancashire has decided to suspend all matches until January.

Lancashire FA announced the decision late on Friday (4 December) afternoon.

All grassroots football has been called off.

Play is suspended by the Lancashire FA in Preston, South Ribble, Ribbley Valley, Rossendale, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn and Pendle.

Read more: How Preston residents in low incomes can access financial support during the pandemic

Tier-3 restrictions set out by the government do not prohibit outdoor sports matches.

Official government guidance states: “In line with guidance from sporting national governing bodies, you can take part in organised sport and physical activity outdoors with any number of people.”

See the latest coronavirus cases and information near you

Preston and Lancashire entered tier-3 restrictions on Wednesday (2 December) and coronavirus infection rates are continuing to fall in the city and across the county.

FA boss explains decision

Lancashire FA chief executive Simon Gerrard said: “Like the vast majority of you, I love football. The same applied to every member of the team that works with me at Lancashire FA, which is why we do our best to develop the game as best we can across the county.

“However, it’s also the reason we sometimes need to make decisions that serve the best interest of the game and our participants, volunteers and spectators, for a long-term benefit. Today is an example of one of those types of decisions.

“Although COVID-19 infections are decreasing across the County, it remains incredibly prominent in some parts of Lancashire and continues to take the lives of a number of people infected.

“With relaxation in the rules on households mixing during Christmas period, we need to take joint action to avoid another rise over the coming weeks.

“Following lengthy and detailed conversations with Public Health for Lancashire, Public Health for Blackburn and Darwen, Public Health England, Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Police, Lancashire FA – in conjunction with partners – has made the decision to suspend all grassroots football activity, both youth and adult, across the following Local Authorities in the county: Pendle, Burnley, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley, Preston and South Ribble until January 2021 at the earliest.

“This means no training, no friendly fixtures and no league fixtures are to be played throughout December, whilst no festivals or competitions will be sanctioned by Lancashire FA until the end of January.

“It also means that any player residing in one of the affected boroughs can NOT play for a team in an unaffected borough, frustrating though we know this is.

“Football is important to us all, but the game also has a wider social responsibility to those involved. We appreciate the mental health benefits that involvement in football provides, however, the health and survival of everybody, whether it be players, coaches, referees, volunteers or spectators, is paramount and can’t be overlooked.

“Statistics, provided to me throughout our detailed conversations with various stakeholders, highlighted the sheer scale of the potential impact that continuing grassroots football in these eight areas would have – details that I hope we can make public next week.

Read more: Staggered return planned for UCLan students in January

“Our decision has drawn support and encouragement from all of the Local Authorities involved, in addition to representatives from Public Health.

“We strongly wish that there was a way in which football could continue in these eight areas throughout December. However, when faced with the statistics, information and opinions of those with a greater understanding of COVID-19 and the spread of the virus, it is clear there is not a way for that to happen.

“I urge you all to respect the decision that has been made and to stay safe in the coming weeks; so that you can all enjoy a happy and healthy festive period and prepare for us to return to the game we all love in the New Year.”

Backlash from players and parents

A petition has been started by parents and players unhappy with the decision.

M Bennet’s petition calls for the leadership team of the Lancashire FA to resign.

More than 2,000 signatures have been received so far on the petition.

The petition states: “This is completely unfair and comes as a massive shock to the grassroots football community. There was no indication that this position was coming from Lancs FA and there was no consultation with football clubs who have worked tirelessly to minimise the risk of covid transmission through robust risk assessments. It is an even more ridiculous position from Lancashire FA because earlier on on the 4th December they confirmed that indoor football could go ahead.

“This position also goes against the National FA who have confirmed that grassroots football can go ahead in any tier.

“The grassroots community has lost confidence in the leadership team at Lancashire FA, so they should resign with immediate effect.”

Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines

What do you think of the decision taken? Has it affected you? Let us know in the comments below

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