Covid safeguarding – Protocols

Referee David Elleray.

Whilst the league is following FA guidelines, Keith from Mordeon has offered to share his thoughts on the restart. the FA’s trumpeting of 1st August is NOT that simple

Most of you know Keith, he is a club manager, referee and his job in the NHS sees him ordering PPE supplies for the government preparing for a second wave.

“if you are not Covid Ready, then you don’t play”

I have put these suggestions together as both a manager/club chairman/secretary of a club, as well as a league referee.  I feel this puts me in the unique position that I can see the situation from both sides.  In addition to this, my daytime role involves supplying the NHS so I have visibility of what the future could actually hold for us all.

On the club side, there is pressure from players to resume training/matches as soon as possible.  This pressure comes from players in that “if you don’t resume, I’ll find a club that does” this has been said to me personally as players just want to play (sometimes irrespective of the current climate and what could be happening in the wider world.

This means the manager could lose his players, and subsequently his team through no fault of his own.  In addition to this I feel that if it not for the league, then very little would have been done to help clubs.  The localised FA has posted images provided by the national FA and that’s it.  Nothing aimed towards the area, nothing towards us other than “this is what the recommendations are”

I feel the support form Wiltshire FA has been very poor in what could lead to a localised lockdown (we are already seeing these nationwide in Leicester, Oldham, Blackburn, and now Greater Manchester.)

Is it really worth risking the lives of multiple people in Swindon just because people behind a PC in the safety of their own homes decide its fine for everyone?

On the referee side I feel that to resume any form of football in the community is unsafe, too soon, and completely irresponsible given that there are unsuitable/safe facilities throughout the town that require using.  To expect players/everyone to turn up in full kit match ready means that the virus (if anyone is transmitting it) stands more chance to spread the virus through the travel to and from matches (not every player and official has use of a car): again I feel this is another needless risk.

I completely understand the league and to an extent FA feel pressure to resume the “National sport”, however a few simple steps can be taken to ensure these risks are mitigated, and reduced as much as can be.

I therefore suggest the following protocols be put into place with immediate effect.

  • For pre-season matches it is in the interest of the clubs to officiate the games themselves providing they complete and distribute the suggested FA Risk assessment (and it is signed by the relevant club officials) to the opposition club, the league in which they are affiliated to, and (if necessary, a pre agreed match official)
    1. Where a club uses facilities provided by the local council they should also obtain written confirmation that the facilities are deemed to be “Covid ready” (in line with government advice relating to the use of indoor facilities)
  • Clubs wishing to take part in preseason training or matches should be affiliated to an approved league, and hold relevant insurance (with certificate being supplied to the league)
  • Any club not able to supply both a risk assessment and insurance certificate will not be authorised to commence training/matches and will subsequently be in breach of the regulations surround lockdown relaxation and liable to enforcement action (as defined within the UK Laws relating to sporting events in public)
  • Providing points 1 – 3 are adhered to, a club can commence with preseason training and/or matches and should then follow the following checklist:
    1. Upon arrival to facilities club match equipment should be immediately disinfected
    2. Players should arrive with shorts and socks ready and only change into shirts when no “covid ready” changing facilities are available.
    3. Players should not share drinking bottles
    4. Referees and match fees should be transferred ahead of matches to eliminate any cash changing hands
    5. A full list of players and attendees (including contact details) should be provided to the opposition club secretary (and officials if necessary) prior to the game (with NO exceptions) to ensure everyone present can be contacted by track and trace operatives should the need arise.

Whilst I feel the above may seem harsh, this is an opportunity for the league to really put the onus onto clubs in that if they wish to play, then they really do need to show they are serious about player and everyone else’ safety.  Also of course, it ensures that the league itself is taking this serious and essentially giving out a very simple message:

The latest guidelines can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-phased-return-of-sport-and-recreation/return-to-recreational-team-sport-framework

It clearly states that clubs must follow these guidelines and complete the risk assessments and take relevant steps.   Again

“if you are not Covid Ready, then you don’t play”