Grassroots sport set for March return

Woodley United v Wokingham & Emmbrook Picture: Andrew Batt FootballinBerkshire
Woodley United v Wokingham & Emmbrook Picture: Andrew Batt FootballinBerkshire

AFTER A THREE month pause grassroots sport is set to make a return at the end of March.
As part of the first stage of restrictions to be eased formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and Under 18s – can restart from Monday, March 29 and will not be subject to the gatherings limits enforced elsewhere.

However, after the news that football at step two level had been null and void for this season again, it is expected that levels 3-6 will have a similar fate.

An FA statement reads: “We welcome the UK Government’s update regarding the Covid-19 roadmap which means we can look forward to the safe return of grassroots football from 29 March for both adults and children.

“We can also confirm that the 2020/21 grassroots season has been extended until the end of June. The extension does not apply to the National League System, Steps 3-6, Regional NLS Feeder Leagues and the Women’s Football Pyramid from Tier 3 and below, as the process to determine the preferred route forward for these competitions is currently ongoing.”

This means that local clubs competing at step six level, such as Woodley United, Wokingham & Emmbrook and Binfield may not return to finish their campaigns this season.

“We are waiting to hear from the league, but because of the step two announcement last week I think it’s inevitable that the season will be null and void,” said Woodley United manager Jamie Williams.

“There will be a knock on effect from that with no promotions or relegations and I can’t see any other result.

“Although we were struggling, I still want the season to be finished because of the work and effort that has gone into getting the games played and the money that all the clubs have spent.

“Its been so difficult to get any games played this year having to stick to the various rules. For that to have been a waste of time does seem unfair. 

“I don’t want it to sound like I’m not looking forward to football returning, but I think the return date of March 29 is totally irresponsible. It doesn’t make any sense to me when we are potentially three months away from being to go back to what it was like pre-covid.

“We won’t be returning to training. If the league makes us do it with games to be played, which I think is unlikely, then we will find a way to make it happen but I think it’s irresponsible and I feel sorry for the manager’s of the kids teams and the clubs.

“We had a breakout of covid before at the club in November, and we were really strict in sticking to the rules, but it’s so difficult to avoid.

“It will be down to the league, but I’d like them to think about it and maybe have a long build-up to returning next season, I think that would make a lot more sense than rushing a return this season.”

Meanwhile, other sports are expected to also make a return at the end of March, including rugby union.

Further details are expected to be released from the RFU in the coming days on the form of the sport which will be allowed, but it appears there is at last some light at the end of the tunnel.

Reflecting on the announcement, the RFU said in a statement: “This is good news for the game and for players, coaches and volunteers across the country, who will once again be able to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of being involved in team sport.

“We will work with DCMS on the Covid protocols for the community game, including the format of rugby that will be permitted in return to play. We also look forward to working with Government and other sports on the safe return of fans to stadiums.”

Among others to welcome the news were Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth, who said: “The Prime Minister’s roadmap for the return of sport and physical activity is very welcome and a clear recognition of how important it is to the nation’s physical and mental health.

“We know people are desperate to get back playing the sport they love and doing the activities they have so badly missed, and now it is at last in sight.”

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