A Statement from CEO Ben Snowdon
Following the Government’s announcement at the weekend that we were going into a second National lockdown and then The FA's announcement that this will include the suspension of all ‘non-elite’ football until Wednesday 2nd December I, probably like a lot of you, am feeling particularly torn at this present time.
I am obviously hugely disappointed that the game that I am not only lucky enough to have as a career but is also a large part of my own and my family’s lives, will be mainly taken away from me, at a time when I probably need it more than ever.
As a coach of grassroots youth teams, I have seen first-hand the positive impact that the return of football has had on those involved.
The outcomes that football provides to its participants (players, coaches, referees, volunteers and spectators) goes far beyond the game itself. I read the other day that if you could put the benefits you take from the game and put into a pill to take daily, the results would be incalculable to both our health and social systems.
On the other hand , I cannot deny that whilst there appears to have been very little problems on the pitch, that the same cannot always be said off the pitch as there have been multiple reports and often pictures of large crowds with little and sometimes no social distancing in evidence at local games and facilities.
Whilst this regular condemnation was aimed at the game itself, I always felt that this was unfair and should be seen more as problem for and a reflection of what was happening in wider society.
Football was an ‘easy target’ for some to make generalised comments without seeing or knowing, as I do, the work that facilities, clubs and leagues had undertaken to put all of the additional controls and measures in place to allow the return of football much sooner than we had initially anticipated.
So, with the above in mind, as a number of other areas of society are facing up to being negatively impacted by lockdown, and despite the fact that the playing of football outside is allegedly seen to have a low risk of transmission, it is maybe morally correct that the grassroots game is seen to play its part in helping to control the spread of the virus for the next 4 weeks.
The science allegedly suggests that complying with the national measures will help to limit the spread of coronavirus and hopefully protect those vulnerable groups, including loved ones from the virus.
However, a month-long national lockdown in Winter will undoubtably be a test for all of our mental health, particularly those for whom lockdown has been most challenging.
During this time children and young people have experienced so much change and uncertainty. They have spent long periods at home and have been told to keep their distance to keep themselves and other people safe. Therefore, it is unsurprising that some children and young people have experienced a range of emotional difficulties throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
It is also said that 1 in 3 older people have reported struggling with anxiety, depression and loneliness brought on by the pandemic (Age UK). At the same time in younger adults there has been a 183% increase in the number of people visiting rethink.org for advice on anxiety disorder and even more worryingly an 188% increase in the number of people seeking information about how to support someone experiencing suicidal thoughts (Rethink Mental Illness).
I have seen first hand the positive effect that football provided to the mental well-being of people of all ages and therefore understand the concerns shown by some regarding the latest suspension.
I recently read an article with some great tips on how to look after your own mental health during a lockdown one of which was that ‘doing good, does good’.
During the last lockdown local football did some amazing things. Whether it be in the way that they engaged with club members or in fundraising for local and national charities. We had a lot to be rightly proud of during this time, a small section of which can be seen here as part of our lockdown heroes.
I have always seen us as a grassroots community and now more than ever our attention needs to turn to that community.
We obviously need to protect the community from Covid-19 by playing our part in ensuring that we all follow the guidance during the next 4 weeks.
We can do so much as a football family in connecting with and ‘checking in ‘on our local communities.
‘Check in’ on team mates, fellow referees etc. to see how they really are.
‘Check in’ on club and league officials, supporters, neighbours, friends etc. (some of who may be within a vulnerable category).
Check in and show our support for local businesses who support football and the community, at what will again be a challenging time for them.
Check in and show appreciation for key workers, who once again will be at the forefront of keeping the country moving.
Most importantly don’t forget to ‘check in’ with yourself and your loved ones.
As a County FA we will hopefully play our part in engaging with those who wish to use football as some sense of normality whether this be through initiatives like our online coach’s coffee club or referees’ room, or just through a general telephone call or email. If you need or want to talk, we are always there to support.
We look forward to welcoming you back to football, hopefully within 4 weeks.
For now, stay safe, stay active and stay positive.
CEO Cumberland FA
Read the UPDATED Non-Elite Football Statement