Grassroots football teams across England were given the green light to resume playing football outdoors last Friday.
Amateur football has been suspended across the UK since March as part of nationwide lockdown measures.
James Kendall, director of football development at The FA, said the following as part of The FA statement: “We’re delighted that the Government has given the go-ahead for competitive grassroots football to return.
“The past few months have been some of the most challenging times not just for football, but across society, and today’s news will be welcomed by the grassroots football community all over the country.”
Clubs can immediately begin competitive training but overall numbers must be limited to under 30 people.
Outdoor competitive friendlies can be played from August 1 onwards with the intention for competitive and social grassroots leagues to re-start from the start of September onwards.
The FA has warned that competitive football should only resume once clubs and facility providers have completed the necessary risk assessments and comprehensive plans have been put in place.
The FA has released a number of guidelines to help curtail the transmission of COVID-19; including players being encouraged to turn up to the game already changed and advice to avoid goal celebrations.
In addition, teams have been advised keep a record of attendees at a match or training session, including contact details, to support NHS Test and Trace.
Football in south west London
The ‘Association of Provincial Football Supporter Clubs in London’ (APFSCIL), is a south west London amateur football association, established in 1980, with the majority of teams playing their home fixtures at the Riverside grounds, close to Barnes Bridge.
Jonny Harte, APFSCIL league fixture secretary and manager of the London Scottish supporters’ team, is thrilled at the announcement.
“I am absolutely delighted both from a fitness and social aspect,” he said.
“It has been a long time since we were last together and we are all really looking forward to playing football again.”
There are currently only 10 teams competing in APFSCIL, consisting of supporters of football clubs from across the UK and beyond, but the league has suffered from a drop in the numbers of adults playing amateur 11-a-side football over recent years.
London Scottish, who play their home games at Hurlingham Park in Fulham, completed the league and cup double in 2019 but were set to relinquish their league title in March before the league was suspended and eventually declared void.
However, Mr Harte believes teams understood the decision to cancel the league and doesn’t expect any animosity next season although he does suspect that the lockdown might lead to a people, more generally, returning to play outdoor team sports.
Mr Harte said: “I am hopeful that the time in lockdown will make people realise that getting out and playing football (or other sports) whilst still able to, is such a privilege, and will lead to an uptake in people taking part in team sports again.”
Football impacting the community
London Scottish have a long-standing relationship with The Eight Bells pub, in Fulham, and visit after every home game.
Aga Kowalska, general manager of The Eight Bells pub, is hoping restrictions will be more widely lifted by September as currently the pub is restricted to only 36 people inside and 18 outside.
“However, it will be really good to have some customers come back who love this pub,” added Ms Kowalska.
APFSCL is currently looking for new teams to join the league in September and can be contacted through the APFSCIL Facebook page or via [email protected] with fixtures taking place Sunday afternoons.