Somerset Football Association 'delighted' with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's annoucement

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Grassroots Football will return on March 29 in an announcement made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of his four-step plan to tackle the coronavirus. - Credit: Archant

The Somerset Football Association have said they are “delighted” with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of allowing football to return again from March 29, but they expect a “big task” on their hands in the next couple of months to get things up and running.

Johnson announced a new four-step plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and ease lockdown with outdoor after-school sports and activities permitted from March 8, while outdoor sports like basketball, tennis courts, golf courses and open air swimming pools will reopen towards the end of the month, when organised adult and children's sport, such as grassroots football, will also be allowed to return.

This will then follow with the second step of indoor leisure venues such as gyms and swimming pools being allowed to reopen on April 12.

From May 17, sporting events can welcome fans back, with social distancing in place.

And if all goes to plan from June 21 all legal limits on social contact will be removed, meaning no restrictions on crowds at larger sporting events.

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“We were delighted to hear in today’s announcement by Boris Johnson that organised sport will return from the 29th March, initial reaction on social media show that is shared by a number of people within football,” said a statement from the Somerset FA.

“We are awaiting guidance from the FA of measures that we will have to put in place to allow everyone to participate safely, we will of course share that with all stakeholders as soon as we get it.”

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As for the Somerset FA there is a lot to do between now and the end of next month.

Cheddar boss Craig Mawford and Ashton & Backwell United's Stuart Jones

Cheddar boss Craig Mawford with Ashton & Backwell United manager Stuart Jones ahead of their Buildbase FA Vase first round match in December. - Credit: Josh Thomas

Not since last November have clubs in the Toolstation Western League played league football, while the Buildbase FA Vase was allowed to continue until December, when some friendlies  were played between local sides.

For other local leagues not since January have games been played due to differences in tier systems with North Somerset in tier 3 and the rest of Somerset placed in tier 4 before the announcement of the third national lockdown on January 6.

During this time a number of surveys were sent out to clubs asking what they would like to do regarding the 2020-21 season.

The majority of clubs had voted to play again, but, between 25 and 30 per cent would want the campaign to be ended and a new season to start again later this summer in either August or September.

Despite the encouraging news, there are a couple of issues the FA faces, including the end date on the football calendar, as at the time of the latest lockdown beginning the number of completed fixtures was ranging from just over 50 per cent down to 15 per cent.

When football does start again, not everyone would want to play, and given the circumstances no one would want to force a team to play if they didn’t feel safe to do so.

James Waite in action for Weston against Willand Rovers

James Waite leads the Weston attack against Willand Rovers during their friendly last December. - Credit: Sam Hellings / Boomsatsuma / WsMAFC

“Welcome that this news is, our leagues and clubs, will face numerous issues when we return,” continued the Somerset FA statement.

“At the time of lockdown the various leagues in Somerset were all at different stages of completed fixtures for their respective leagues. If we restart at the beginning of April, and this will coincide with the British summer time to allow midweek fixtures, there will still be a limited number of available slots to schedule matches, so it will challenging for most leagues and consequently entirely possible that a traditional completion of a season, each team playing home and away, will be difficult.

“We know that there will be clubs that have faced hardship through not being able to play and will face challenges financially, while players will not of course have played or even trained for three months.

“While we may be allowed to play it is entirely possible that some teams will not want to do so, and this will of course be quite understandable.

“Therefore we know that we are presented with these and other challenges, and while we know that our leagues and clubs have great people running them, we will as a county FA offer any assistance they will need in helping them return to football.

“If they have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us, our staff can't wait to get back to doing the job they love so they will be very eager to help.

“The coming months will be a big task for everyone but one I know we are all looking forward to taking on and can’t wait to start playing again.”

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