How did you plan for the reopening after this lockdown and what are the key elements your clubs/participants are having to do, in order to reopen and return safely?
We have provided clear Covid-19 Return to Football guidance to all clubs, leagues and participants fully aligned to that provided by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which will be updated at each stage of the country’s re-emergence from lockdown.
As for all sports, the key is for the grassroots community to engage with the guidance and ensure their facilities are set up appropriately. We know how important this guidance is to everyone involved in the game and the additional burden it places on a largely volunteer workforce. The way clubs have responded has been extraordinarily impressive.
We have offered, with the assistance of Sport England, funding to County FAs to provide discounted 2021-22 season affiliation to clubs and their teams, as we did for the current season. This will be available across the whole of affiliated football, assisting everyone with getting back to the game they love, and especially those from under-represented areas of the game such as women and girls, lower socio-economic groups, minority groups and disabled people.
We, alongside Sport England, strongly encourage all of those restarting to ensure that everyone is able to benefit, no matter their age or gender, from fair and equal access to playing opportunities.
Our ‘Return to Football Fund’, made possible with Sport England funding from the National Lottery, is also providing £2.1 million, targeted at supporting people in low participation groups to start playing again. It will also fund initiatives aimed at bringing new players into the game and cover the cost of adapting to coronavirus rules.
Finally, alongside our partners at The Football Foundation, we also recently announced two other new funds to provide further financial support to clubs over the longer term. The £14 million Grass Pitch Maintenance Fund is providing six-year tapered grants to improve the quality of grass pitches, whilst the Small Grants fund is available to help clubs pay for essential equipment and machinery they need to start playing again.
Clubs can apply for up to £25k to refurbish their changing rooms, pay for grass pitch drainage, new goalposts, pitch maintenance equipment and portable floodlights.