Boxing Day matches agreed as football league kicks off grassroots fixture rejig post-lockdown

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football league boxing day
New Milton’s Chris Long wins an aerial duel in one of the last local matches before lockdown began (photo: Les Chase)

THE Sydenhams Wessex League board members have met to organise the resumption of premier and division one football in December.

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Provided lockdown is lifted and grassroots sport is given the green light, the first round of fixtures will be on Saturday 5th December.

Since the government implemented lockdown on 5th November, local clubs have been unable to play competitive football or train. Restrictions are expected to lift by 2nd December.

After conversations with several managers, the board decided to give clubs the option of postponing the first match and train instead.

Before the postponement of football, there were no scheduled fixtures between 19th December and 2nd January. Given the circumstances, the board unanimously agreed to a host of new fixtures dates including Boxing Day matches. Clubs have the option of mutually agreeing to move the 26th December fixture to Monday 28th, Tuesday 29th or Wednesday 30th.

Sydenhams Wessex League chairman Nick Spencer said: “The enforced break has allowed clubs to recharge energy levels, and to think about how they approached the Covid-19 situation, namely what they have done well, and perhaps what they could have done differently or will change when they start playing again.

“I am optimistic that the league will be permitted to resume when we come out of lockdown next month.

“It will be essential that clubs support fixtures secretary Roger Allen, who has the onerous task of compiling the fixtures that will enable the season to reach a natural conclusion. There will be more midweek fixtures than usual, some of which may not be ideal in terms of travel, but I believe that by working together and supporting each other it is achievable.”

In response to the pandemic, the league asked Bob Purkiss MBE to be the Covid-19 coordinator. When it became apparent the workload would be too great for one person, Nick Spencer, Roger Allen, Ian Harley and Greg Dickson began to support Bob. The league has also posted bulletins on the its website offering advice and information.

Nick added: “Some clubs have excelled in implementing Covid-19 guidelines, whereas others have needed help, advice and guidance. I appreciate that some behaviour is instinctive. However, it is not permitted under the guidelines published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports and The FA. Inappropriate behaviour has been and will be the biggest challenge that we all face.

“I encourage clubs to share best practice. By taking ownership, displaying collective accountability and taking responsibility, I believe we can influence change.

“I would like to thank all concerned with the league, including board members, match officials, club chairpersons, secretaries, volunteers, managers, coaches, physios, players and supporters, as well as our colleagues at The FA for their individual and collective contribution to date.”

Christchurch, Bashley, New Milton Town and Brockenhurst are still waiting to learn when their FA Vase competition campaigns will resume after The FA failed to release any provisional dates.

Sydenhams Wessex League fixtures secretary, Roger Allen, said: “Having to rearrange the fixtures is frustrating, but nowhere near as important as the seriousness of the pandemic.

“At the outset we knew this season would be problematic and, given that a potential vaccine is unlikely to be rolled out to our players until late in the season, we anticipate that there will be further disruptions to the fixtures.

“Without a clear indication of when we will be allowed to restart, I had to prepare a provisional fixture list for December. Given that teams will not have trained together for over four weeks, the board decided that clubs should be given the option of training, rather than being given a competitive fixture. We have now passed the date for rearrangements, and only five clubs have decided to play on 5th December.

“The FA could have reduced the number of future rearrangements by naming provisional dates for restarting the FA Vase. However, they have declined to do so and, as their fixtures take precedence over all others, we will have to adjust fixtures when they make a decision.”

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