The ESFA can confirm that the UK Government approved The FA’s plan for the return of outdoor competitive grassroots football Saturday 18 July 2020.
As a result, the schools’ football community now has the opportunity to return to football and prepare for the start of the new season and for the completion of last season’s tournaments, if deemed appropriate to do so by the local organising association.
Football activity can take place with necessary modifications in place to mitigate the transmission risk of COVID-19.
We would strongly recommend a phased return to competitive football activity as follows:
- Until 31 July – When ready, you can begin competitive training, with the overall group size (inclusive of coaches) being limited to 30 people
- From 1 August – Competitive matches to begin, for example pre-season fixtures, festivals and small sided football competitions
- From 1 September – Leagues and Cup competitions can commence
Associations, schools, players, coaches, match officials, volunteers, parents/carers, spectators and football facility providers should read our full guidance document which can be downloaded here, in addition to the latest Government guidance on COVID-19. You are also advised to refer to the information which can be found on the FA’s website regarding returning to grassroots football.
A return to competitive football should only happen once associations, schools and facility providers have completed the necessary risk assessments and comprehensive plans are in place.
A summary of key points to consider from our guidelines are listed for ease below:
- Everyone should self-assess for COVID-19 symptoms before every training session or match. If you are symptomatic or living in a household with possible or actual COVID-19 infection you must not participate or attend;
- Associations, schools and facility providers should ensure that their facility is compliant with current Government legislation and guidance related to COVID-19;
- Competitive training is now permitted, with groups limited to a maximum of 30 people, including coaches;
- Competitive match play is permitted, with social distancing in place before and after the match, and in any breaks in play;
- Players and staff should sanitise hands before and after a game as well as scheduled breaks throughout a game or training session;
- Ball handling should be kept to a minimum with most contact via a boot and the ball disinfected in breaks of play;
- Football coaches and teachers are encouraged to limit persistent close proximity of participants during match play and training;
- Goal celebrations should be avoided;
- Equipment should not be shared, and goalkeepers should ensure they disinfect their gloves regularly in breaks in training or matches and thoroughly afterwards. Where possible, teachers and coaches should only handle equipment in training;
- Associations: Where possible, players, coaches and officials should arrive changed and shower at home. Use of changing and shower facilities must follow government advice on the use of indoor facilities. Schools should follow approved guidelines relating to changing facilities regarding PE lessons and inter-school matches
- Participants should follow best practice for travel including minimising use of public transport and walking or cycling if possible. People from a household or support bubble can travel together in a vehicle. If mini-bus or coach travel is absolutely necessary please follow advice contained within the guidance document below
- Associations and schools should keep a record of attendees at a match or training session, including contact details, to support NHS Test and Trace;
Please note that at this stage, indoor football and Futsal is not permitted. The FA is currently working with indoor facility providers to develop appropriate guidance for indoor formats as soon as possible.
All guidance must be undertaken in accordance with existing child welfare policy documents which can be found here. The ESFA will also be releasing updated Risk Assessment documents w/c 27 July. Please ensure that standard risk assessments are completed for all activity in addition to the COVID-19 risk assessments.
The full guidance document can be downloaded here along with supporting documents which have been produced by The Football Association.
Note: The FA’s documents have been specifically designed to support grassroots club football much of which is applicable to schools’ representative team football and inter-school football. On FA documents, where “club” is mentioned you can replace this with Association or School accordingly.