Arbour Park. Photo: Philip J.A Benton/philipbenton.com

Covid-19: ‘It’s on all of us to keep non-league football running’

Wednesday's Covid-19 announcement is currently allowing the continuation of spectators to matches at step 3 and below
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Arbour Park. Photo: Philip J.A Benton/philipbenton.com

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The government have announced that gatherings of more than six people are to be made illegal from Monday.

I don’t know about anybody else, but my first thought on that was ‘oh no, there goes the football season’, with obvious nods to the very serious nature of the disease that has proved tragically deadly. But rightly or wrongly I’d just started to get into the mindset that things were getting back to normal whilst remaining careful when out and about.

I’ve been following the coverage today and the key thing to pick out, is the line ‘work and school are unaffected, as is organised sport, weddings and funerals.’

A statement released by the FA to clubs says that spectators can continue to attend games at current levels from steps 3 to 7 of the men’s game. The statement didn’t include the women’s game, though the top level FA WSL has already begun behind closed doors.

Of course, this announcement may well cause some issues around the National League start date, the BBC’s Ollie Bayliss has already suggested this may well pose a threat to the start of the season (classed as ‘elite level sport’ by the government) which had set October 1st as a start date because they would be able to get fans in.

Related: How the English Football Pyramid works – steps and levels

Since I started writing this, Bayliss has reafirmed via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport that outdoor football can continue and that steps 3 and below can continue to have supporters as long as they operate with Covid precautions.

That doesn’t change what I was going to round off this with. All the clubs I have been to in pre-season and for competitive fixtures in recent days have acted, in my view, correctly and safely. I’ve had my temperature checked at a game by former AFC Wimbledon and Aldershot Town boss Terry Brown, I’ve bought tickets online (great innovation!), I’ve stood on the specific markings painted at Eversley & California and I have had my details taken for track and trace repeatedly – it’s vital this continues and clubs are able to strictly enforce their plans.

But it’s also on us as supporters of grassroots football clubs to be aware and ensure that our clubs can continue to welcome fans in. Understand what clubs have put in place in terms of Covid-19 (most of them have posted this information on their website, but contact the club if you can’t find it), if you feel unwell, don’t go to the game. If you don’t think something is right or you don’t feel comfortable, please raise it with a club official as I am certain they will want to make sure everyone feels safe.

I guess the same all applies to players, managers, volunteers. It’s on all of us to be sensible, keep our clubs going and keep non-league football running.

Editors note: The image used to illustrate this piece was taken during the 2019/20 season, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

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