The FA issues guidelines for the return of outdoor competitive grassroots football

Updated Guidance 18 July 2020

The FA issues guidelines for the return of outdoor competitive grassroots football

Practical guidance for players, coaches, officials, volunteers, clubs, leagues, parents/carers and facility providers undertaking outdoor competitive grassroots football activity in England. 

The FA can confirm that the UK Government approved its plan for the return of outdoor grassroots football late last night, Friday 17 July 2020. 

As a result, the grassroots football community now has the opportunity to return to football and prepare for the start of the new season. 

The FA has been working hard over recent weeks to prepare guidelines for the safe return of grassroots football and, following Government approval, these can now be published. 

Football activity can take place with necessary modifications in place to mitigate the transmission risk of COVID-19.  

The FA would strongly recommend a phased return to competitive football activity as follows:

  Until 31 July

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

•  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.

Clubs, players, coaches, match officials, league officials, volunteers, parents/carers, spectators and football facility providers should read The FA’s full guidelines, which are accessible below, 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. 

A summary of key points to consider from The FA’s guidelines are listed for ease below:
•  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. 

Separate guidance has been developed for clubs with teams competing in the men’s National League System (NLS) and the Women’s Football Pyramid tiers 3 to 6. This will support these Clubs on the safe return of paying spectators and also the applicability of the guidance to facilities under Ground Grading conditions, to ensure the safe return of competitive matches.  

Please note that at this stage, indoor football and futsal is not permitted. The FA will look to work with indoor facility providers to develop appropriate guidance for indoor formats as soon as possible. 

James Kendall, Director of Football Development at The FA, said: “We are delighted that the Government has given the go-ahead for competitive grassroots football to return. The past few months have been some of the most challenging times not just for football, but across society, and today’s news will be welcomed by the grassroots football community all over the country.

“Now that we are able to look ahead to the new season, it’s crucial that we continue to do all we can to follow safety measures, both as advised by the government and specifically for football. 

“I would encourage anyone returning to competitive grassroots football to take the time to read this guidance, prepare thoroughly and to adopt our recommended approach to phasing football back in. I would also like to thank you for playing your vital part in helping our great game to get going again.”

The full guidance document can be downloaded below, along with a short summary for all those involved in restarting activity

Guidance on Re-Starting Outdoor Competitive Grassroots Football

Summary: Guidance on Re-Starting Outdoor Competitive Grassroots Football

 Football Activity Guidance for Facility Providers

Football Activity Guidance - Covid19 Safeguarding Risk Assessment

First Aid Guidance for Returning to Outdoor Competitive Grassroots Football

Return of Outdoor Competitive Grassroots Football - FAQ's


A Message From Cumberland FA CEO Ben Snowdon Following The FA's Latest Guidance 

Like everyone involved in grassroots football we are delighted that the government have given the green light for the return of competitive football and have approved The FA's plan so that we all now have a clear pathway for the commencement of the 2020/21 season. 

This news will provide those wishing to return to competitive football with the opportunity to do so a lot sooner than we had initially envisaged. 

However it is also important to remember that this awful virus has not gone away and so as a grassroots community we must recognise and respect that for some people a return to football will still be too soon or too great a risk for them personally.  

It is therefore crucial, particularly given local statistics that have demonstrated an increase in cases in certain areas within the county, that we understand that as in all aspects of our lives,  football will look and feel a little different in the immediate future. 

The speed at which things have progressed means that we are able to jump straight from Phase 1 (Planning To Play) right to our final phase (Progressing To Play).  As a County FA we will be reviewing The FA's guidance and working with our key strategic and delivery partners to ensure that they are in a position to be able to support the phased return of football. 

Due to the speed in which the landscape has changed over the last couple of weeks I would also ask our members for a degree of patience and understanding, as the last few month have and continues to be a challenging time for our wider community.  We recognise that in some cases the financial impact of lockdown means that facility providers and key volunteers within the game may be furloughed or have been working longer hours as key workers and so it may take a short period of time for them to get things in a position where they can get things up and running. 

Given all of the above it is imperative that we continue to follow the guidance from government and The FA. 

I would like to thank all of our members for their support to date and ask all involved to read through the latest guidance, prepare thoroughly and follow The FA's phased approach as this is the best way to ensure we can get and keep the game that we love and have missed so much back in our lives for good. 

Ben Snowdon 
Cumberland FA