Like the vast majority of you, I love football. The same applies to every member of the team that works with me at Lancashire FA, which is why we do our best to develop the game as best we can across the county.
However, it’s also the reason we sometimes need to make decisions that serve the best interest of the game and our participants, volunteers and spectators, for a long-term benefit. Today is an example of one of those types of decisions.
Although COVID-19 infections are decreasing across the County, it remains incredibly prominent in some parts of Lancashire and continues to take the lives of a number of people infected.
With relaxation in the rules on households mixing during Christmas period, we need to take joint action to avoid another rise over the coming weeks.
Following lengthy and detailed conversations with Public Health for Lancashire, Public Health for Blackburn and Darwen, Public Health England, Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Police, Lancashire FA – in conjunction with partners – has made the decision to suspend all grassroots football activity, both youth and adult, across the following Local Authorities in the county: Pendle, Burnley, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley, Preston and South Ribble until January 2021 at the earliest.
This means no training, no friendly fixtures and no league fixtures are to be played throughout December, whilst no festivals or competitions will be sanctioned by Lancashire FA until the end of January.
It also means that any player residing in one of the affected boroughs can NOT play for a team in an unaffected borough, frustrating though we know this is.
Football is important to us all, but the game also has a wider social responsibility to those involved. We appreciate the mental health benefits that involvement in football provides, however, the health and survival of everybody, whether it be players, coaches, referees, volunteers or spectators, is paramount and can’t be overlooked.
Statistics, provided to me throughout our detailed conversations with various stakeholders, highlighted the sheer scale of the potential impact that continuing grassroots football in these eight areas would have – details that I hope we can make public next week.
Our decision has drawn support and encouragement from all of the Local Authorities involved, in addition to representatives from Public Health.
We strongly wish that there was a way in which football could continue in these eight areas throughout December. However, when faced with the statistics, information and opinions of those with a greater understanding of COVID-19 and the spread of the virus, it is clear there is not a way for that to happen.
I urge you all to respect the decision that has been made and to stay safe in the coming weeks; so that you can all enjoy a happy and healthy festive period and prepare for us to return to the game we all love in the New Year.
CEO, Lancashire FA