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UPDATE: Spectators at Pre-Season Matches

The FA had released their initial guidance on Saturday July 18th. It was clear that all friendlies involving National League System clubs should be played behind closed doors.

The FA recognise that it is difficult to restrict spectators at a grassroots football fixture on a public recreation ground. This obviously does not apply to Woodside and other clubs at our level, as we can control people entering the ground.

 

Supporters and Clubs Flouted the Rules
The FA report that over the weekend, as clubs returned to pre-season competitive fixtures, they have discovered that some fixtures were played with spectators and, in a small number of cases, with a crowd in excess of 100.

The guidance regarding gatherings is a clear Government issued position. They therefore re-emphasised that ALL National League System pre-season fixtures should be played behind closed doors.

Due to evidence received over that weekend they are now extending behind closed doors to Regional NLS Feeder League Clubs (Step 7) and this will also apply to preseason matches played in an NLS or Regional NLS Feeder League ground including, for example, County FA or League Cup Finals.

 

And they reiterate some further specific restrictions…
ALL friendlies involving Step 1 to Regional NLS Feeder Leagues Clubs should be played behind closed doors, until further notice.

ALL pre-season or other matches held at Step 1 to Regional NLS Feeder League grounds, including, for example, all County FA and League Cup Finals, should be played behind closed doors, until further notice.

 

Only essential Club Officials and Parents.
Friendlies or other matches can have others not involved ‘on the pitch’ in the ground and this can provide for essential Club Officials only or, where an under 18 is playing in the fixture, a parent or guardian to fulfil safeguarding requirements. All must observe social distancing.

This means the majority of the members of the Board and support staff cannot attend, either.

 

NLS and Women’s Pyramid: under negotiation.
The FA also say that they resubmitted a proposal for spectators at National League System & Women’s Pyramid games to DCMS.

 

Government Suspends Test Events: we have to behave ourselves, or we won’t be trusted to open the doors…
The Government suspended the test events for the return of spectators under Stage 5 of the Elite Sport Protocols, which much of the NLS does not fall under. As such, the FA are continuing their dialogue with DCMS separately to the Stage 5 pilot project.

The suspension however of the Pilot Events which had low spectator numbers shows that Government are sensitive to crowds of all sizes and as such, the presence of crowds at pre-season matches puts the longer-term supporter strategies at risk.

 

Clubhouses can operate separately but no entry to the ground for spectators
Whilst Clubs can operate their Clubhouses in accordance with Government hospitality guidance they say there should be no entry to the ground for spectators. At Woodside this presents us with a problem, of course.

 

Next Steps
As Club, we need to put forward a united front:

·   We are keeping a low profile on all matches until the ‘closed doors’ restriction is lifted.

·   We do not, in any way, want to encourage people to go to Home or Away grounds and attempt to enter them. To do so risks jeopardising our long term plans to open.

·   We will provide updates after the match is completed, but the message from us all needs to be “Stay Home and convince the Government that we can Stay Safe.” This is the only way we are going to get back into the ground.

·   WFC Management Team are preparing for the start of the ‘new normal’ and will keep you updated as best we can.