'We hope restrictions are lifted with immediate effect': South Ribble Council challenge suspension of grassroots football

South Ribble Borough Council has challenged Lancashire FA’s recent decision, on December 4, to suspend grassroots football until January.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 4:23 pm
Children and adult grassroots sports are cancelled until 2021 at the earliest

The FA has suspended all grassroots football activity, both youth and adult, across Pendle, Burnley, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley, Preston and South Ribble until January 2021 at the earliest.

The FA explained the decision - communicated on Friday - was taken under the professional recommendation of Public Health for Lancashire, Public Health for Blackburn and Darwen, Public Health England and the Local Resilience Forum in Lancashire.

But now, South Ribble Borough Council has challenged Lancashire FA’s decision and are appealing for it to be 'reconsidered' in an official statement yesterday, December 9.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It said: “We know lots of people have been frustrated by the Lancashire FA’s decision to suspend grassroots football in South Ribble until the New Year.

“We wanted to let everyone know we’ve been in touch with the LFA and the county’s director of public health to request an urgent review of this decision to include our borough.

“This is given other parts of the county with similar infection rates are not included in this suspension of grassroots football.

“And other sports that take place indoors such as gymnastics and swimming can still go ahead.

Lancashire County Council’s Director of Public Health, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi said it was a 'temporary measure'

“The wellbeing of our children is really important and we hope this decision can be reconsidered and restrictions lifted with immediate effect.”

And Councillor Paul Foster, Leader of South Ribble Borough Council, spoke out and said he wanted to enter into a "dialogue" about the matter.

He said: “On the morning of December 9, I sent a letter to the Chief Executive of the Lancashire Football Association, Mr Simon Gerrard; and to the Director of Public Health at Lancashire County Council, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, where I have formally appealed their decision to suspends grassroots football in South Ribble until the New Year.

“I look forward to reading their response, hopefully in the coming days, so that we can enter into a dialogue about this important matter.

“I would be very pleased to set up a meeting with them both at the earliest convenience.”

After discussions with Public Health for Lancashire, Public Health for Blackburn and Darwen, Public Health England, Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Police, Lancashire FA – in conjunction with partners – made their decision to suspend all grassroots football activity until at least 2021.

In a new statement, the Lancashire FA said it was "saddened" to have witnessed the level of abusive messages that had been directed at Chief Executive Officer, Simon Gerrard, following the publication of his open letter.

The statement said: "Based on ONS North West data and local experience of managing outbreaks in children, Public Health England estimates that up to 1 in every 33 people could be carrying COVID-19 without symptoms in the East Lancashire areas.

"Football, even outdoors, still involves an element of close contact and heavy breathing, heightening risk. Although presently not available, testing of players is an area being explored collaboratively between Lancashire FA and Public Health to enable safer football activity, and we will update you on this when we are in a position to do so.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire County Council's Director of Public Health, said: "Exercise certainly remains really important for people. People are still encouraged to go with their households to parks and exercise in other ways.

"This is a short-term measure and will be reviewed carefully. We aren't far from getting more testing rolled out and vaccines becoming available.

"By working together as a team, we can all help to protect each other."

Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 per month for the first two months. Try us today by ​clicking here