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FA's phased return of outdoor football set to allow matches from August and competitive leagues to return from September

Outdoor football is on its way back after the Football Association had their phased return of the grassroots game approved by the government's Department for Digital, Culture and Sport last night.

The new guidance released today will mean clubs can decide to return to whole team training – having been capped at groups of up to six – immediately.

Matches are set to be allowed from August while leagues across the country will be able to resume from September, under the current guidance and pending no drawback of restrictions in the meantime.

Local football leagues can resume their competitions from September while group training of up to 30 people can begin immediately, under newly-released FA guidance
Local football leagues can resume their competitions from September while group training of up to 30 people can begin immediately, under newly-released FA guidance

But goal celebrations are being discouraged while goalkeepers will have to regularly clean their gloves among new caveats to make the sport comply with limited the spread of Covid-19.

The FA website's article said it would "strongly recommend a phased return to competitive football activity as follows:

• Until 31 July – When ready, you can begin competitive training, with the overall group size (inclusive of coaches) being limited to 30 people;

• From August – Competitive matches to begin, for example pre-season fixtures, festivals and small sided football competitions;

• From September – Grassroots leagues, men’s National League System, Women’s Football Pyramid tiers 3 to 6, and FA Competitions can commence."

The release stresses "clubs, players, coaches, match officials, league officials, volunteers, parents/carers, spectators and football facility providers should read our full guidelines (available via their website here ), in addition to the latest Government guidance on COVID-19.

"A return to competitive football should only happen once clubs and facility providers have completed the necessary risk assessments and comprehensive plans are in place.

"A summary of key points to consider from our guidelines are listed for ease below:

• Everyone should self-assess for COVID-19 symptoms before every training session or match. If you are symptomatic or living in a household with possible or actual COVID-19 infection you must not participate or attend;

• Clubs and facility providers should ensure that their facility is compliant with current Government legislation and guidance related to COVID-19;

• Competitive training is now permitted, with groups limited to a maximum of 30 people, including coaches;

• Competitive match play is permitted, with social distancing in place before and after the match, and in any breaks in play;

• Players and officials should sanitise hands before and after a game as well as scheduled breaks throughout a game or training session;

• Ball handling should be kept to a minimum with most contact via a boot and the ball disinfected in breaks of play;

• Youth football coaches are encouraged to limit persistent close proximity of participants during match play and training;

• Goal celebrations should be avoided;

• Equipment should not be shared, and goalkeepers should ensure they disinfect their gloves regularly in breaks in training or matches and thoroughly afterwards. Where possible, coaches should only handle equipment in training;

• Where possible, players, coaches and officials should arrive changed and shower at home. Use of changing and shower facilities must follow government advice on the use of indoor facilities;

• Participants should follow best practice for travel including minimising use of public transport and walking or cycling if possible. People from a household or support bubble can travel together in a vehicle.

• Clubs should keep a record of attendees at a match or training session, including contact details, to support NHS Test and Trace;

• Clubs should ensure they are affiliated with their County Football Association."

It comes after all football activity was phrohibited due to the Covid-19 pandemic in late March.

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