AN open letter to the Suffolk football community has been written by Suffolk FA Chief Executive Richard Neal.
The letter, which has been sent to the secretaries of all affiliated clubs in Suffolk, is reproduced below for you to read.
Good afternoon Colleague
Please do share this with committee members and colleagues at your club.
The Government announced further measures on Monday in an attempt to suppress the spread of Covid-19.
Whilst we are not facing the restrictions felt in other areas of the country, I’m sure we will all be aware that the infection rates for Suffolk are worryingly on the rise.
Indeed, we have already seen that increase reflected in the number of reported cases affecting football participation in the county. We remain thankful that safe, compliant football activity can continue to take place, but my plea is for us all to re-doubled our efforts to vigilantly adhere to the latest FA guidelines (NLS, WFP and grassroots) and continually review practices and risk assessments to tighten any areas identified over the first few weeks of the season, or which may have slackened.
In particular, please remain steadfast in requesting players and officials continue to arrive and leave in match kit where at all possible.
This will help limit the use of indoor spaces and allow for social distancing to be considered at all times; before, during and after a match.
I understand the difficulties created by restricting the use of indoor spaces, especially as the weather changes to a distinctly more Autumnal and Wintry feel, but Suffolk football as a community must play our part in adapting to the times we are in and not continue behaviours which only in February and March 2020 would have been considered standard practice.
From my visits to grounds so far this season, Test and Trace is another measure we must ensure we collectively support. If you have a clubhouse, stadia entrance, pavilion, kiosk, changing block, or other area where people congregate, please ensure you have NHS QR codes on display and available for everyone in attendance.
In case there are people unable to use the NHS App, or if you do not have an obvious congregation point, a secondary system must be provided by which to collect details of everyone in case requested by the NHS Test and Trace service.
Managing supporters to maintain social distancing is understandably proving difficult, with many spectators attending football matches as a form of escapism.
But again, please do all you can to ensure people maintain social distancing; reminders upon arrival, regular tannoy announcements if possible, signage, prohibited seats or sections of seating, pre-match social media posts reaffirming requirements, markers denoting queuing systems and distinct places for standing/no standing should all be appropriately considered when trying to manage spectators.
Where a facility is owned by another organisation, please make sure discussions are held to ensure agreement over the responsibilities of all parties.
It is not only matchdays where Covid-19 measures must be in place. It is equally as important to have similar measures in place for training sessions where it is often easy to let standards lapse.
This may be because the onus on matchday adherence is on club officials and Covid Officers who are having to live and breathe football participation guidance on a much more regular basis, and they don’t necessarily attend every training session, but everyone has a responsibility to fulfil their part in adhering to the guidance and maintaining safe environments.
Where positive cases are being experienced, or concerns are raised, we continue to offer advice as per The FA guidelines. But understandably different people will have varying levels of comfort with those guidelines depending on the circumstances behind each occurrence.
Leagues and competition organisers to date have shown a great willingness to be sympathetic and flexible where at all possible, and I would encourage dialogue continues to take place as early as possible with the competition organiser if there are any concerns over a fixture.
The Suffolk FA staff team continue to be available to help clubs and leagues navigate this time. Our arrangements with Blue Square Solutions and Secure Check-In continue to offer Suffolk clubs options for sanitising materials, signage and a secondary test and trace system.
Additionally, funding advice remains available to help clubs maximise any grant opportunities when they become available. We have also now adapted our telephone system to have a Covid specific option for anyone who wishes to discuss approaches with us (Option 9).
This season is already proving the most challenging of all seasons for everyone. However, if we continually help and respect one another in adhering to the latest guidelines for the respective areas of the game, we stand the best chance of keeping each other safe and safely participating in the game we hold dear.
With best regards