A message from our CEO Ben Snowdon ahead of the weekend.
At the end March most of the World appeared to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This included grassroots football, as quite rightly the priority for all was the health and safety of our community and more specifically friends and family.
In July, and much sooner than we had initially thought, The FA and the Government agreed a ‘roadmap’ for grassroots football which, at first, allowed for small group training only. This soon progressed to allow for the return of competitive training, then competitive matches and finally in September organised leagues and fixtures.
Whilst we welcomed this move, it certainly wasn’t a return to ’business as usual’ or football as we had known it as the resumption came with specific guidance from both The Government and The FA.
I will forever be indebted to all those volunteers who worked so hard on completing the necessary risk assessments, putting measures in place to ensure that we could commence with the 2020-21 season.
Before the UK Government’s latest announcement regarding the introduction of local COVID alert levels, there were concerns that the country and/or county may once again be placed into a full lockdown. It therefore was a relief that, for now, football can continue in Cumberland without any real additional restrictions (other than our usual weather).
However, with an ever-increasing number of cases within the county the question must be for how long will this continue?
On top of this, and specifically following the recent tiered guidance, where limits were placed on others areas of our lives (weddings, funerals etc.), football appears to be one of the areas that is under scrutiny from those who do not believe that football should be allowed and certainly not in the numbers that we currently see at games.
In the last couple of weeks, I have received several calls from irate members of the public regarding the attendance at games, parking around areas, litter etc.
This has led to reports being received by local councillors and the police.
Therefore, at this moment in time I am worried that football is in danger of becoming the latest scapegoat (like pubs and restaurants).
I am aware that much around the pandemic and specifically the guidance is maddeningly unclear, and some believe unjustified.
I am not an expert and do not know what is best for us. I look at the figures and reports and feel as confused as anybody else.
From a personal perspective I also understand the questioning and feeling of unfairness and frustration around the situation we find ourselves in and the restrictions we have upon our lives. My father was taken into a care home in June, during lockdown, due to Alzheimer’s. He is 68. Due to a mixture of the measures and his illness, I have been unable to see or even speak with him since June.
However, I also know that as a person and as a member of The County FA I must do everything I can to support the region’s most vulnerable people during this difficult and confusing time.
This doesn’t just mean from Covid-19 but also from a physical and mental health perspective and unfortunately, I have had first-hand experience of how the restrictions have impacted people’s mental health, losing a close friend following a prolonged battle with her mental health.
Before the gradual easing of the lockdown restrictions began in July, I received numerous phone calls from people who stressed that football needed to return to not only bring about a much needed sense of normality, but more specifically to protect the mental well being of players as football provided an opportunity to see friends, socialise in ‘real space’, provide some sort of routine and ‘reconnect with life’.
I am therefore appealing to all of our clubs, players, coaches, match officials, league officials, volunteers, parents, carers, and facility providers, whether you believe in or agree with both the UK Governments’ latest guidance on COVID-19 and respective bespoke guidelines from The FA, to play your part and follow the guidance.
We cannot guarantee that football will not be ‘locked down’ again, but in order to best protect the game it is essential that we follow the guidance and at least try to keep it going for as long as we can.
Now more than ever, we need all of you who value and love the game to team up to ensure that we try to keep the ‘Game On’
We're asking people involved in grassroots football in Cumberland to send in photos or tag us on social media (#GameOn) of those who are helping to keep the ‘game on’, those unsung people who have done risk assessments, made signs etc.
Also please do share good practice of things that you and your club have done to help keep the ‘Game on’... We want to flood our social media with positive stories!
Updated Joint Statement below (Version)
Read the Joint Statement with local Cumberland Football Leagues