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Lancashire FA u-turn on decision to ban grassroots football in Preston and South Ribble until new year

Posted on - 16th December, 2020 - 10:40am | Author - | Posted in - Health, Politics, Preston News
An amateur football game in Preston Pic: Jim Beattie
An amateur football game in Preston Pic: Jim Beattie

Lancashire Football Association have announced that following updated professional medical health advice, all grassroots football activity, youth and adult, can immediately restart in eight parts of Lancashire.

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These areas are Preston and South Ribble, Pendle, Burnley, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Blackburn with Darwen and Ribble Valley.

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This decision was taken in partnership with Public Health in Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, Public Health England and the Lancashire Resilience Forum (LRF).

Football will need to strictly operate under the national guidelines provided by The Football Association.

The decision to suspend grassroots football activity in eight areas was taken on 4 December, following lengthy, detailed conversations with Public Health for Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, Public Health England, the LRF and Lancashire Police.

Since the suspension, Lancashire FA has been in constant dialogue with all parties, as well as national stakeholders including The FA and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

All parties have actively collaborated to share research and perspectives to identify methods to mitigate the risks originally identified.

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This has enabled a change in health advice leading to today’s announcement of the resumption of football activity.

A spokesman on behalf of the LRF said: “Training, matches and tournaments are able to resume once again thanks to strengthened control measures and guidance, which will reduce the risks we’d previously identified. 

“These have been introduced since the first decision was taken to temporarily pause the game, and will help to give greater confidence that any significant activity-related Covid transmission will be identified, managed and contained, reducing the risk of passing it on.

“There are several factors which have been considered in reaching the conclusion to restart. The 16-29-year-old rates were increasing or unstable in some of Lancashire’s districts in early December.

“They have now reduced in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Rossendale. 

“With schools about to finish for the Christmas holidays, the risk of spreading Covid without symptoms is considered to be lower. This will be kept under review as schools return in 2021.”

Local councils will respond to any breaches or exceptions through Covid-19 regulations.

Lancashire FA is grateful for the time and energy provided by all parties to find solutions to enable this result. 

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Roger Haydock, Chairman of Lancashire FA, said: “As Chair of the Lancashire Football Association, I speak on behalf of the entire Board of Directors to emphasise our unwavering support for the Chief Executive Officer, Simon Gerrard.

“Simon always prioritises the safety of our footballing and wider community, and has worked tirelessly in collaboration with multiple stakeholders and health professionals to find solutions to ensure the game can be brought back safely.

“Placed in an unprecedented situation and faced with professional medical advice that simply could not be ignored, Simon acted diligently and responsibly.

“We are extremely grateful for his leadership of this complex situation, and glad to see this hard work has resulted in a resumption of the game.”

Lancashire FA has made representation to The FA for additional research into player-to-player contact in the grassroots game for both adults and youth, and will be looking to partner with grassroots clubs to advance this research in the New Year.

Lancashire FA will also be looking to create partnerships with local clubs to roll out a Test and Play pilot scheme, once again early in the New Year.

Lancashire FA will be working with leagues, clubs and referees to support compliance with The FA guidelines, and will be issuing further guidance in the New Year around reporting tools to ensure that any non-compliance can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis quickly and efficiently without impacting the whole game. 

Lancashire FA will also be working with the Local Resilience Forum to support the training of new Covid-19 marshals, who can support the grassroots community with implementing the guidelines required. 

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Public Health teams in Lancashire will continue to work closely with Lancashire FA and local schools to bring testing to the grassroots community to enable the further safety of football and the wider community.  

The announcement will be very welcome news to the many thousands of people affected by the previous restrictions; however, Lancashire FA have emphasised the need for all participants to follow the guidelines set out.

The country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic is an ongoing process and national and local guidance is constantly evolving, and the grassroots football community need to remain flexible to changes which could be imposed in the future. 

Lancashire FA have stated that there is no pressure for people to participate in football activities if they do not feel comfortable in doing so.

Everybody has a personal choice about when they restart activity, and those individual decisions are respected by Lancashire FA.

To view the guidelines in full, click here.

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