Football's well and truly coming back - matches in August and non-league divisions can start in September

It's the news footballers, clubs and fans across the country have been waiting for - the FA have today announced plans to resume grassroots football have been approved by the government. They are recommending a phased return to competitive football activity.

Matches can be played in August - and leagues will start in September. But there are many restrictions involved.
Matches can be played in August - and leagues will start in September. But there are many restrictions involved.

Here are the main points put forward:

• Until 31 July – When ready, you can begin competitive training, with the overall group size (inclusive of coaches) being limited to 30 people;

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National League system- club guidance:

• From August – Competitive matches to begin, for example pre-season fixtures, festivals and small sided football competitions;

• From September – Grassroots leagues, men’s National League System, Women’s Football Pyramid tiers 3 to 6, and FA Competitions can commence. The Isthmian League is scheduled for Saturday September 19.

Clubs, players, coaches, match officials, league officials, volunteers, parents/carers, spectators and football facility providers should read the full guidelines in addition to the latest Government guidance on COVID-19.

A return to competitive football should only happen once clubs and facility providers have completed the necessary risk assessments and comprehensive plans are in place.

They give a summary of key points to consider:

• Everyone should self-assess for COVID-19 symptoms before every training session or match. If you are symptomatic or living in a household with possible or actual COVID-19 infection you must not participate or attend;

• Clubs and facility providers should ensure that their facility is compliant with current Government legislation and guidance related to COVID-19;

• Competitive training is now permitted, with groups limited to a maximum of 30 people, including coaches;

• Competitive match play is permitted, with social distancing in place before and after the match, and in any breaks in play;

• Players and officials should sanitise hands before and after a game as well as scheduled breaks throughout a game or training session;

• Ball handling should be kept to a minimum with most contact via a boot and the ball disinfected in breaks of play;

• Youth football coaches are encouraged to limit persistent close proximity of participants during match play and training;

• Goal celebrations should be avoided;

• Equipment should not be shared, and goalkeepers should ensure they disinfect their gloves regularly in breaks in training or matches and thoroughly afterwards. Where possible, coaches should only handle equipment in training;

• Where possible, players, coaches and officials should arrive changed and shower at home. Use of changing and shower facilities must follow government advice on the use of indoor facilities;

• Participants should follow best practice for travel including minimising use of public transport and walking or cycling if possible. People from a household or support bubble can travel together in a vehicle

• Clubs should keep a record of attendees at a match or training session, including contact details, to support NHS Test and Trace;

• Clubs should ensure they are affiliated with their County Football Association.

They stress this isn't a green light for business as usual - there is still some way to go, despite the dates mentioned above. As the document entitled 'National League System Club Guidance Covid-19 Return to Football' states in Section C VI- Spectators:Gatherings:

'Current Government guidance: Gatherings of more than 30 people are not permitted while social distancing. Therefore, clubs are unable to have gatherings or spectators of any size at this time for any matches or training.'

The FA say they are currently working with DCMS and other key stakeholders to understand the timescale for the return to spectators at sporting events. Initial discussions have identified that it will be difficult to return to competitive matches without the ability to welcome some form of spectators to matches.

'There is no current available or formal guidance. The following guidance is designed to provide clubs with suggested considerations to prepare for spectators based on social distancing. We strongly urge clubs to give this some thought now in order to move forward when guidance becomes available.'

There has been far to much information released for it to be summarised effectively here, but you can read it all by heading to the FA website. Once we have some League-specific guidance it will be issued.

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