Grassroots football across the UK is back after another lengthy Covid-19 lockdown. Local teams across the country were forced to stop playing in December after infections rose considerably. But since Monday 29 March, children and amateurs across the country have been back in action — albeit outdoors only.
Outdoor sporting facilities can now open, and organised football is permitted — with certain restrictions. The FA has taken advice from the UK Government to ensure everyone in the game is kept safe at all times. And the latest guidance applies to outdoor youth and adult football, as well as short forms of the game such as futsal.
There is no longer a ‘stay at home’ directive in place. However, there are still a few travel restrictions in place. All players should avoid travelling at the busiest times of the day, and use the quietest routes where possible. Unnecessary travel should be avoided, but players are allowed to travel to and from matches and training sessions. The UK Government has published guidelines on travelling safely.
While matches and training sessions can now resume, there are still restrictions in place for spectators. All sessions must take place ‘behind closed doors’ — unless certain conditions are met. The entire match or training session must take place outdoors. Arrangements must be made for spectators to arrive in a staggered manner throughout the day.
Here’s where things get a little complex. According to UK Government guidelines, spectators must not attend sporting events that take place on private land. However, for younger children, one parent or guardian is allowed to accompany their child. Everyone in attendance must follow UK Government guidelines on social distancing, hygiene and mask-wearing.
But people can watch organised sport that takes place in public spaces, such as playing fields. The rule of six and all the usual social distancing restrictions still apply. What does this mean in practice? Sporting events designed for the purpose of attracting spectators are, as of April 12 2021, still not allowed. But if you adhere to social distancing rules and the rule of six, you can watch under-18s football at your local park.
Unfortunately, the use of changing rooms is still prohibited. Players are expected to arrive at training sessions and matches in their kit. Toilets, however, are allowed to be opened 30 minutes before a session, and for 30 minutes after. Again, everyone is expected to follow UK Government guidelines of hygiene, social distancing and mask-wearing.
Indoor football for children is allowed from April 12th 2021. However, adult grassroots football can’t resume until Monday 17 May. All under-18 matches and training sessions must take place in line with Out of School Setting guidelines and Department of Education rules. Disabled players are also allowed to return to action in indoor settings.
From April 12 2021, outdoor hospitality at children’s grassroots football is allowed. However, everyone involved must adhere to the hospitality rules laid out on the UK Government website. But this new relaxation only applies to private land. For now, spectators are only allowed to watch grassroots football played on public land.
These new rules will apply until at least May 17, unless the UK Government updates the official roadmap out of lockdown.
Everyone must play their part
The Covid-19 regulations in relation to grassroots football are there to keep everyone safe. While it might be tempting to return to normal sooner, we all must play our part in ensuring the roadmap out of lockdown is followed closely.
Clubs must ensure that the latest Covid-19 restrictions are communicated to players, coaches, match officials, volunteers, guardians and carers. Local County FAs may take action against any member who breaches the rules. And, of course, contravening Covid-19 laws can result in a hefty fine.
As we’ve seen throughout the course of this global pandemic, the situation can change quickly. The best advice for all concerned is to keep checking the ‘Covid-19 Organised Events Guidance for local authorities’ web page for the latest information.