SWP League issue a ‘Coronavirus pandemic appeal’ to member clubs

PUBLISHED: 10:57 20 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:57 20 September 2020


The South West Peninsula League have issued a communication to all member clubs with regard to the on-going Coronavirus pandemic and the worrying matter of a new lockdown, writes Steve Birley.

The league, arguably one of the best administered in the country, is clearly concerned that while the majorly of member clubs are indeed adhering to all the guidelines from off-the-pitch through to on-the-pitch matters, some clubs have become relaxed and possibly even ‘taken their eye ball’.

The communication reads: ‘We want to make an appeal to all players, officials and supporters of clubs in the South West Peninsula League concerning the need to remain Covid vigilant. A great many of our clubs, and the hard working volunteers at them, have made great efforts to ensure games are staged in a safe manner for both participants and spectators, but the league chairman and I, along with the fellow directors, remain concerned that not all have followed all the guidance, and further we are concerned to see some players not following the rules – which are for their own safety.

The Football Association issued a question & answer statement last week (a link to it is below this article) and should be read by anyone concerned with current issues. The agreement negotiated between the FA and the Department for Culture Media and Sport means that the game of football is not considered a “close contact” by the social distancing regulations, as long as Clubs continue to fully implement their risk assessments. A failure to implement these risk assessments is likely to result in matches being postponed and players and spectators self-isolating, in line with Test and Trace guidance.

Only this week we have had a close shave, where a player had been advised to self isolate by the NHS whilst awaiting a test, with the club not following the guidance in full, they had risked “close contact” with the whole squad, where if they only had contact on the pitch it would not of been as endangering. It was possible that the whole of that players squad would have had to self isolate for 14 days – those players would not just miss football, but work, income and family life would have been very difficult – not to mention the possibility of onward transmission. A negative test result, after a match was postponed, meant on this occasion a bullet was dodged, but it should serve as a warning to all.

As COVID restrictions nationally become tighter, the footballing authorities are becoming increasingly aware of instances where players and spectators are stretching or even ignoring the guidance. Whilst the Clubs and the Leagues do not have the power of enforcement, the Police do have the power to fine individuals for persistent breaches of the guidance. Local councils may also be given extra powers to stop events and shut down parks if they are concerned about threats to public safety.

The South West Peninsula League has issued specific guidance to its Clubs, urging players and managers to lead by example, supporting Club volunteers to ensure matches are COVID safe. In its statement to Clubs, the League has highlighted the importance of a number of measures, including:

Teams must follow the advice of the home sides Risk Assessment and ensure only the maximum number of players and support staff enter the changing room at any given time, clubs Risk assessments should allow for a safe number based on the size of rooms and the one meter plus rule.

If players have to car share they should do so with the same individuals on each occasion.

Where minibuses are used, everyone should wear a face mask and use hand sanitiser before and after entry.

Extra seating in technical areas should be provided to ensure the occupants remain at a safe distance from each other and spectators.

Celebrations both on the pitch, and in dressing rooms have been seen in person and on social media. The practices of videos of Singing in dressing rooms, photos of team groups all stood next to each other, travelling to games without precautions must ALL STOP.

Spectators must respect the rule of 6 and maintain social distancing at all times, inside and outside the clubhouse.

It is vitally important to stress that “sport being exempt from the regulations” refers ONLY to whilst actually participating in the match, on the field of play – Players are NOT exempt from anything before or after matches!

Finally – can we urge ALL players, officials and supporters to renew your efforts, check your guidance and risk assessments, update them if necessary, and above all STAY VIGILANT – Not just for football matches to safely continue, but for the health of all the football family, which includes many volunteers who may not be of the same age and health status as those that need to act in the best possible fashion.’

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