Lancashire FA explain further decision over temporary suspension of grassroots football in Preston and South Ribble

Posted on - 7th December, 2020 - 11:38am | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston 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 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.

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Lancashire FA released another statement to further explain why they have taken the decision.

The statement outlined that the decision was taken under professional recommendations from Public Health for Lancashire, Public Health for Blackburn and Darwen, Public Health England and the Local Resilience Forum (LRF) in Lancashire, which identifies potential risks and produces emergency plans to prevent or mitigate the impact of any incident on the local communities.

Within the statement issued on Friday, the information and statistics were explained.

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Minimising the risk of infection spread from upcoming games involving 27,000 players and even more people when including coaches, parents and grandparents in the forthcoming weekend, it was deemed a priority to protect the community over the Christmas period, and act swiftly.

Lancashire County Council’s Director of Public Health, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, said: “I know that this news has been disappointing for many people, but it is important that we contain the spread of coronavirus, especially as we go into the Christmas period when more households will be mixing.

“We have been in discussion with the Lancashire FA and Public Health England to understand the current situation involving approximately 900 teams and around 27,000 players.

“Given the increasing incidence in some districts involving younger age groups, we jointly concluded that, in order to minimise disruption to schools, it would be sensible to pause organised matches in selected districts across East and Central Lancashire until the New Year.

“Exercise certainly remains really important for people. People are still encouraged to go with their households to parks and exercise in other ways.

“This is a short-term measure and will be reviewed carefully. We aren’t far from getting more testing rolled out and vaccines becoming available. By working together as a team, we can all help to protect each other.”

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Public Health in Lancashire are working with the Lancashire FA and local schools to look at future plans for testing, and are working with the local sports partnership to assess the risk for other sports which include close contact.

Director of Public Health and Wellbeing for Blackburn with Darwen Council, Prof Dominic Harrison, said: “Whilst the rates for COVID-19 in Blackburn with Darwen have been coming down rapidly during most of the lockdown, we have seen a significant rise in rates again in the 0-30 year old age groups over the last week.

“In order to minimise the risk of household transmission over the five day seasonal relaxation of the COVID rules, we need to take all the measures we can to avoid entering the 23-27 December period with rising rates.

“We hope to work closely with Lancashire FA over the coming weeks to see how we can open up grassroots football as soon as possible in the New Year.”

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A statement to the footballing community

Lancashire FA have taken the opportunity to explain the timing of the announcement made on Friday evening.

They said: “We fully understand that to be notified of such a decision at 6.00pm, the night before many matches were to be played and when children were excited to be returning to play, is far from what is expected of us.

“Unfortunately, the timing of the release was dictated by the timing of both the escalation of our on-going discussions late Thursday afternoon and into Friday with Lancashire County Council and other parties, and the imminent weekend fixtures.

“We would like to emphasise that once the final decision had been made, it was communicated as soon as it possibly could have been.”

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Lancashire FA, like the local grassroots community, received The FA and Government guidance late on Tuesday 1 December evening, providing just three days to review the status of COVID-19 within the entire county, which is made up of 19 Local Authorities, and had just two days to conduct the lengthy and complex conversations with our partners regarding the eight affected authorities with rising rates of infection.

Lancashire FA also understands that, because of the pressing nature of this decision, it was communicated without the level of detail and supporting facts that it deserved.

Lancashire FA fully understand and appreciate the decision has been met with frustration, disappointment and anger, but are saddened at the level of abusive messages that have been directed at their Chief Executive Officer, Simon Gerrard, following the publication of his open letter.

Lancashire FA implores all within the eight Local Authorities to respect the decision made. Please keep everybody safe, so that we can enjoy the festive season and ensure that we’re in a strong position to return to grassroots football in early 2021.

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

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