Peninsula League football suspended

Action from Honiton Town vs Elburton. Picture: Andrew Symonds

Action from Honiton Town vs Elburton. Picture: Andrew Symonds - Credit: Archant

The South-West Peninsula League has suspended all football until at least January 15. 

The decision comes after today’s Government announcement on changes to the tier system of Covid restrictions, placing Devon into tier 3. 

It means local sides Sidmouth Town, Axminster Town and Honiton Town will have to await further news from the Peninsula League before competitive football is resumed. 

Exmouth Town will hope to learn from the Toolstation Western League following a League Committee meeting on Wednesday evening. 

The full statement from the Peninsula League read as follows: 


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Whilst outdoor team sports are only banned under Tier 4, the restrictions on holding such matches in Tier 3 are such that it places a burden on Club Officials, Volunteers and Supporters to the extent that it is impractical to fully comply without professional, trained staff, to ensure the law is complied with. Further, it is financially draining to incur the costs of staging matches without the normal income streams, which the restrictions mean are largely turned off. 

The FA issued on December 24 an email to leagues at Steps 3 to 6 which placed further restrictions on clubs playing in Tier 3, the most important excerpt is below: 

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“Risk assessments: Clubs must update their risk assessments and action plans, which were required to be prepared under the previous version of the government guidance, to consider and mitigate the risk posed by permitting spectators to attend fixtures (in particular, how they intend to minimise transmission rates and ensure that spectators comply with social distancing). 

IN TIER 3 AREAS, CLUBS SHOULD PROVIDE ADDITIONAL AND SPECIFIC REFERENCE IN THEIR RISK ASSESSMENT FOR ADDITIONAL TIER 3 RESTRICTIONS; 

  1. HOW SPECTATORS WILL REMAIN 2M APART AND SPREAD EVENLY AROUND THE GROUND 

  1. ENSURING THAT IN PERIMETER AREAS SPECTATORS REMAIN ONE PERSONS DEEP 

  1. WHERE GROUNDS HAVE COVERED SEATED OR TERRACED AREAS, NO MORE THAN 15% OF ADMITTED SPECTATORS CONGREGATE IN THESE AREAS 

  1. HOW SPECTATORS WILL REMAIN IN SINGLE HOUSEHOLD GROUPS ONLY” 

The League is also aware that previously issued FA & DCMS instructions that are also valid now, which impact on Tier 3 are: 

  1. Maximum Crowds fall from 300 to 150 in Tier 3 (becomes a major issue for several clubs – Falmouth, Saltash & St Austell all average more than 150, and many others have had gates this season over that, and as the festive fixtures showed, if yours is one of only a handful of games being played, the crowd goes up very quickly) 

  1. Club houses and Tea huts must remain closed for all bar take away and click & collect (Sitting down with even a substantial meal is gone) 

  1. Although Players & bona fide officials CAN travel in and out of Tier 3 for purposes of playing – spectators cannot. This will cause huge issues either side of the border in either Division – Torpoint / Millbrook / Saltash / Callington / Launceston especially but far wider than that too, and how do club officials and club volunteer’s police this? 

DECISION OF THE LEAGUE BOARD: 

Taking into account all the above, AND giving due consideration to all factors – such as the benefits of providing team sports to participants and the wider community – we have reluctantly, but unanimously agreed the following: 

  • ALL Games under the control of the SWP League Ltd are SUSPENDED with IMMEDIATE AFFECT. 

  • The league will only recommence fixtures, and even then with further discussions, when BOTH Devon & Cornwall are at the very least returned to Tier 2 Restrictions. 

  • All clubs will be given at least 7sevenclear days notice of the resumption of fixtures, in practice this means: 

  1. Games up until January 15th are Postponed NOW 

  1. At each weekly Govt review of restrictions which are normally held on a Wednesday, if either or both County remains in T 3 or higher, the games for the following week are postponed – Eg if on Weds 6th Jan Tier 3 is unchanged then games from 16th Jan to 22nd Jan will be postponed that day. 

  1. If both Counties are returned to Tier 2 or better at a Govt review, fixtures will recommence the weekend after – eg if Jan 6th or 7th, games would restart on Jan 16th, clubs would be able to train or play friendlies in the period before the recommencement. 

  1. The league board in consultation with the FA and other NLS leagues will actively participate in discussions about how the season maybe concluded, but equally it is only right to state that every week of missed fixtures will mean this becomes impractical, as a league we do not support extending this season beyond May and believe next season should start on time, we also believe club staff, players, grounds deserve a normal summer to recharge batteries. Finally we are aware that several clubs have expressed strong opinions about a final cut off date to this season due to the previous reasons but also : 

  • Seasonal employment in the tourism industry 

  • Seasonal workload & employment in the agricultural industry 

  • The use of grounds and/or people committed to other sports such as Cricket. 

Finally: The league feel we have tried our very best to get the 2020/21 season up and running in line with the restrictions and pressures imposed. We thank all clubs for their huge efforts, for a while in September & October we were catching games up and making remarkable progress, indeed at the turn of the year we are still the league with the highest percentage of games played in the entire national league system. 

However, the November lockdown, the increasing number of postponements due to either covid cases or covid restrictions and the inevitable affect of the weather on our exposed Peninsula has taken its toll. 
 
We have ALL given it our best shot and we can hold our heads up high, but for the time being we all have to accept that playing football means nothing if it risks the health, wellbeing or even the lives of any member of our community. Because of that alone, the league board asks all to accept the reasons for this decision to suspend the league with immediate affect. 

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