League ready for an exciting season

The Lancashire and Cheshire AFL has had a very busy time in the lockdown preparing for the new season involving a lot of hard work by the league committee and clubs, and we are delighted to welcome new clubs into their structure for when the new season gets into action.

The league has had a tremendous response from new clubs with 20 prospective clubs applying and 10 of them will be joining, fielding a total of 12 new teams.

With some of the existing clubs also increasing their number of teams, the league now has 94 teams looking to get into action.

With the season likely to be shorter than normal the league will now extend to eight divisions with new clubs hopefully being placed into divisions that match their playing ability and ambition.

Most of the divisions will comprise 12 teams with several existing teams moving into higher divisions including AFC Oldham, Manchester Polonia and Radclyffe looking to enjoy life in the Premier division.

There has been plenty of action on the field in pre-season friendlies including the new teams with everyone eager to get the new season underway.

Clubs urged to submit Covid-19 Officer details

The L&C require every club in the league to submit information that confirms who is acting as their Covid-19 Officer for the upcoming season.

FA guidelines during the pandemic state that “all clubs must appoint a Covid-19 Officer who will be responsible for developing a Covid-19 plan and risk assessment prior to the restart of any activity.”

Keith Marsden, Registrations Officer for the L&C, said that just a “handful of clubs” have sent details to the league. Therefore, it is of vital importance that all teams submit the name, email address, and telephone number of their nominated Covid-19 official to covid@landc.org.uk as soon as possible.

Mr Marsden said: “We are still in the midst of a serious pandemic and it is vital that we do everything possible to create a safe environment for everyone involved before we can consider a return to competitive football.”

Lancashire and Cheshire AFL Statement end of July 2020

The key question everyone is asking is when will the league start – not before the 5th September, but that may not be possible. This statement was prepared before the government announcement of 9:30PM on 30/7/20 of Greater Manchester restrictions for which we will issue further instruction when we can.

Following the FA announcement of 18th July, and the L & C notes on distribution of that FA and Government material on the 20th July, there are now more detailed instructions from the league following the special committee meeting of the 23rd July. The league broke the information down into different topics.

  1. Grounds

Currently, grounds may only open their pitches, dressing rooms remain closed, and the advice is to arrive changed. There is no information as to when council pitches will be open. It was agreed that the league fixtures would not start without dressing rooms, toilets and showers being open. When they are open, they may have a social distancing regime, restricting numbers at any one time. Please see the Return to Football – Grounds 30-7-20 from Graham Ellis which gives more detail, and links to FA and Government documents.

  1. Friendlies

Allowed from the beginning of August, the league strongly advises clubs not to proceed with friendlies unless full precautions, Covid-19 officer and risk assessments are in place, as friendlies have all the dangers of a full competitive match. We also strongly advise ensuring a referee is appointed and is made aware of the full safety arrangements.

  1. Club Covid19 officer

This is the key role which every club must appoint and name to the league. Keith Marsden has compiled the communication COVID-19 Officer statement 270720. It must be a responsibility of this officer to put a risk assessment process in place, and record a full contact list of all those who are present at training or matches, and to provide this to the relevant authorities.

  1. Risk assessment

Risk assessment is to be carried out before each training activity or match. The FA template is 22 pages long and was not focussed specifically on Covid-19. The league saw this as a problem, that clubs would feel they had to write their own, and there have been some excellent plans sent to us, for which we are grateful and thank the clubs who have helped us shape and populate the spreadsheet. We have developed a risk assessment League Risk Assessment – 30-07-20 which will provide a standard approach. Tim Roebuck and Brian Davies have worked on this. 

  1. Equipment There are many constraints around handling of equipment, and the FA guidance issued relies upon individual players keeping their own kit. This does/can not happen in open-age football in the case of kit, as kit would be lost. The team is not the same week to week. There must be cleaning materials provided, a cleaning regime and team assigned to do it under the control of the Covid-19 officer. Handling of match sheets has been raised by club as a source of contamination, and further details will be issued before match sheets come into use.
  2. Referees Stephen Howard has received communication yesterday from the FA to referees with guidance and instructions, which are being reviewed. Many referees are asking for games, and Steve is being asked for referees for friendlies. We feel that Steve should only help with appointments if it is clear that adequate precautions are in place so that it is safe to play before a match starts.  Payment by cash has been raised as an issue, Stephen Howard has a solution to this, on the Wednesday confirmation call, the ref gives their bank details and how much the fee is, the club then pay direct into the bank.
  3. Insurance Reckless acts are  an exclusion, so going into a match unprepared could be deemed reckless, and public liability insurance would be invalid.
  1. First Aid

First aiders and other officials on the touchline will need adequate protection equipment eg face masks, and this and first aid kits will need to be checked before a match goes ahead. Mouth to mouth resuscitation is now not recommended. We have had serious health issues in this league so this must be resolved.

  1. Further notes
    1. Travelling to matches will have to be within government guidelines.
    2. The implications of a player/referee receiving a positive test for Covid 19 following a game, could see both teams being required to isolate for 14 days.
    3. In an excellent initiative, Gill Bowden has purchased a temperature scanner (approx. £40) with which she will check all participants. We recommend every club Covid-19 officer has one. We will issue further information soon on this, and are looking into whether any funding is available.
    4. We are mindful that there will be a risk to clubs of loss of players if we start later than other leagues, and similarly we will lose referees.
    5. There is a limit of 30 people allowed to be present, this will be exceeded, what is the FA position?
    6. For further guidance and support visit MFA Covid-19 page ​

      http://www.manchesterfa.com/news/2020/jul/18/return-to-football

We would like to thank all clubs for their co-operation and assistance over this difficult period for amateur football, and are also mindful of the tragic consequences this pandemic has had on society.

Kind Regards

Brian Davies

League Secretary

Lancashire and Cheshire AFL

L&C response to FA’s ‘Return to Football’ Action Plan

We have reviewed the information sent by Manchester FA regarding new guidelines for the return to competitive football, and feel it is of vital importance to be even more decisive than the guidelines outline.

All club secretaries have been advised by our own secretary, Brian Davies, to replace the word ‘should’ with ‘must’ when following new guidance. This will ensure the highest chance of safety.

For example, where the guidance says ‘everyone should self-assess for Covid-19 symptoms before every training session or match’, all of our members are advised that it is COMPULSORY to do so.

Brian said: “The approval of the FA’s plan brings the point at which there are real risks of contamination to only two weeks from now.

“Clubs and facility providers have a great deal to do to ensure these risks are minimised.

“The Manchester FA summary is a good starting point to what can become a huge amount of information to digest.

“In my opinion substitute the word MUST instead of SHOULD in almost every instance, and delete the ‘if you can’ references. If you can’t, DON’T.

“Be in no doubt, if anyone thinks this is the signal to ‘get back to normal’, it is not. It is still a life-threatening situation, if not for those directly involved, but for other members of their households and communities.”

The L&C committee will be meeting this week to discuss, and all input from clubs is welcome.

Clubs reminded not to arrange any friendly matches at this time

Manchester FA has warned that there have been reports of “referees being requested to officiate friendly matches.”

As part of the organisation’s most recent update, its communications department has reminded clubs in the region, including those in the L&C that football games of any nature at grassroots level must not go ahead under any circumstances.

In response to easing of lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government issued guidance at the start of June regarding grassroots football and informal football activity outside of the professional game.

It states that football training is permitted in groups of no more than six, who must keep two metres apart at all time.

Crucially, it states that “physical contact with anyone outside of your household is not permitted, therefore playing of any games is also not permitted at this time.”

This means that any clubs trying to arrange a friendly match would be contravening these rules and all teams in our leagues are reminded of this guidance.

Outcomes from L&C 111th AGM outlined

The Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur Football League has reviewed the 2019/20 season and outlined plans for the coming campaign in its Annual General Meeting.

Held on 4th June 2020, the 111th AGM was unlike any other in the league’s long and distinguished history.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, the meeting was held via video conference and was attended by more than 60 league and team representatives.

Mike Yates, L&C Chairman, opened the meeting by highlighting the very real loss suffered by many during the Covid-19 pandemic; the famous Bill Shankly quote about football being more important than life and death was evoked by our chairman, who rightly said this isn’t the case and offered all our condolences to those who have lost love ones to the dreadful virus.

A minute’s silence was held as a mark of respect.

The meeting discussed the way in which the league season was ended; the FA’s options were to null and void the season, or decide standings on a points per game basis. The league, as we know, voted unanimously to void the 2019/2020 season completely – a decision that has received widespread support from the clubs involved in the L&C.

As discussed in the AGM, the L&C left some wiggle room so that cup competitions could be completed if it was safe to do so; initially, a deadline to salvage cup competitions was set for the end of May but given that current FA guidelines state that non-contact training is the only option at the moment, the league reluctantly agreed the cup competitions should go the same way as the league.

It is, as Mr Yates said, “a huge disappointment for everyone, particularly those clubs who put themselves into a position to win cups and medals.”

The unprecedented conclusion to the season actually clouds what was proving to be a “very difficult season” before anybody had heard of Covid-19.

We endured the wettest February in the country on record, with two major storms wreaking havoc. The onset of coronavirus exacerbated this and the cost to the league as a result has been hefty.

Those at the meeting thanked the teams for their understanding, without which “the cost would have been considerably more if the season had come to a natural conclusion.”

Plans for next season were spoke about at length during the AGM. As things stand, the L&C expect to have a net gain of teams, though a decision is yet to be made regarding the number of divisions. It is expected this will remain at seven or we will add one to make eight.

In terms of teams, definite changes include Chorltonians reducing to two teams, while Radclyffe and Village Manchester will run two teams each. Unfortunately, Denton Town have resigned from the league, but in more positive news, Salford Victoria will certainly be adding a third team, and there is scope for a fourth too.

The L&C is delighted to welcome new clubs, all of whom have received committee and member approval.

Woodhouses FC will be based at Hollinwood Sports club and should have access to two football pitches; the L&C has confirmed a ground inspection will take place in due course.

Elsewhere, Shaw Athletic will bring one open age team to the league and are hoping to develop junior teams in the future. Similar to Woodhouses, a ground inspection will be required for Shaw, who have a prospective pitch that Oldham Council has ratified. Training will take place at Royton and Crompton Schools.

We welcome Hattersley into the L&C; the club already have two Sunday league teams but want to start one for Saturday. The team will be coached by Gareth Howell, who is applying for a UEFA B coaching place and has been managing teams for more than a decade.

Stretford Paddock have committed to bringing one team into the league. Chairman and manager Stephen Howson is a well-known personality, with a podcast that has seen many Manchester United legends interviewed. They have a squad of 40-50 players to choose from and have a verbal agreement with Dean Trust, Ardwick, to play their games there.

It was a straightforward choice for the panel to approve the membership of Salford Albion, whose committee have had dealings with the league previously.

Kartel Sports will join the league next season, having competed in the Altrincham & District League since being established in 1991, and are in negotiations with Timperley’s Manor Farm to base their competitive games on those excellent pitches. Training during the winter months will take place at Soccerdome.

Finally, Sale Amateurs will take part in the L&C. The team have already started training in accordance with FA guidelines and have a strong bond, having played together for three years. The players have committed to continuing their journey in the L&C and will play home games at Mersey Valley FC in Sale.

Before the meeting ended, plans for the forthcoming season were outlined. The earliest that the campaign can get underway is Saturday 22 August. However, it has been stressed that the structure of the season or possible start date is not yet known and is subject to change.

Registrations are now open, but we have recommended not sending these to the league for approval until after the first week of July as a precaution, in the event of any problems arising with the switch to the new season.

Spurley Hey return to training marred by fly tipping

SPURLEY Hey FC’s celebrations after being given permission to return to training have been marred somewhat by the actions of ‘mindless offenders’ who have dumped rubbish at the training ground.

Sadly, this type of behaviour has been a common occurrence during Covid-19 lockdown, especially in the early days when waste recycling tips were closed. And on their return to training, it is apparent that Spurley Hey have fallen victim to the same thoughtlessness.

The club’s long-serving secretary, Dave Jameson, said: “Today brings to Spurley Hey some good news with the approval from the FA and Stockport Council to resume football training.

“However, it seems good news is followed by some bad.

“Some mindless offenders have decided to save a few pounds and stop a couple of hundred children and adults start some well needed football coaching by dumping a couple of massive load of rubbish at our facility

“The words ‘vile’ and ‘despicable’ come to mind after seeing what’s been dropped from plumbing, building waste and general waste.

“We are now forced to fork out money which we don’t have or hope the council can help and take this pile of rubbish away.”

The club have put out a call for any volunteers who may be able to help with the clear-up operation.

Mr Jameson added: “If any volunteers are willing to help us remove this rubbish to the local trip then please get in contact at rickb@spurleyhey.com.”

New members of L&C AFL announced

It has been confirmed that new football clubs will join the league next season; in the latest update, the identity of these clubs have been confirmed. Elsewhere, more guidance is available about the resumption of football activity and when it is safe to do so.

  1. The results of the AGM ballots were verified and completed and Hattersley, Shaw Athletic, Stretford Paddock and Woodhouses Football Clubs were successful in their applications, and are now members of the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL. All rule changes were accepted, and a majority were in favour of all items voted upon. AGM minutes will follow.
  1. If any clubs want to pay for their registrations now, please request the invoice from Philip Faulkner, treasurer@landc.org.uk.
  1. On Whole Game system player registrations, please detach players who have left your club, unless they have done so owing money. If they have, please ask us for guidance (registrations@landc.org.uk ). Keith also requested at the AGM for clubs not to submit any registrations to league for approval until we give the signal that they can start.  You can still prepare player info, eg starting with online consent, into Whole Game System but just stop short of sending them in.
  1. A reminder that L&C clubs have had some excellent coverage in local papers and on their websites. If club secretaries want to highlight any initiatives, members doing any charity enterprise, talk about lockdown experiences, club plans or history, for them to be featured, get in touch. Geoff Garnett is available for them to be sent to him email ggggarnett@aol.com and John Train is able to take calls on 07845655156 and will record and write up the articles, or email on john.william.train@gmail.com.
  1. For the latest guidance on resuming football activity, see here http://www.manchesterfa.com/news/2020/jun/12/updated-football-restart-guidance. If you do start training, please stay off pitch areas to allow the maximum grass growth and recovery time.

L&C AGM to go ahead via video conference

The L&C has confirmed that the pre-planned AGM will still go ahead, but via video link. This latest update also contains important information about the future of cup competitions for 2019/20, as well as important information when planning training or friendlies.

  1. The 2020 AGM was already planned for 4th June, and with uncertainty as to when we will be able to hold any conventional meetings, we will hold the event over video conference.
  2. From a list of potential software to deliver this we have two new shortlisted possibilities : Zoom and Microsoft Teams. It would obviously make sense to use the one which more clubs are familiar with. Could you let me know which you have experienced, if either? Both require software to be downloaded. Another possible solution is the FA Webex system.
  3. The deadline we set for a decision on whether we play the season 19/20 cups to conclusion was set at 31st May for two reasons – teams will need time to prepare, and we would not want to impact on the main family holiday season. Also we think that if any team feel unable to play (when it is deemed safe by government and FA) we would scrap that cup for all. We will defer the decision until the end of this month as we are no clearer now than in March.
  4. Any training or plans for friendlies must be provisional pending FA clearance.
  5. Information has been issued for possible funding streams available – take advantage whilst they are available.