Clubs warn of potential disastrous consequences of new guidelines

NORTHERNERS and Sylvans have backed the GFA in the parent body’s questioning of new Public Health guidance on Covid contact-traced school children and even questioned whether a full youth season can happen.

Public Health guidance on Covid contact-traced school children could have a significant and negative impact on the youth football season. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29968983)
Public Health guidance on Covid contact-traced school children could have a significant and negative impact on the youth football season. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29968983)

Gary Roberts, chief executive at the GFA, warned that the updated guidance will inevitably have a significant and negative impact on youth football, along with other sports.

Guy Hardill, the Sylvans secretary, said yesterday that the current policy could be disastrous.

‘The ongoing effect will be the fact we are only at the very start of autumn and we now face a potentially long winter as no doubt Covid will keep surfacing in schools and so no doubt we will see an ever changing number of children in the 10-day lateral flow test cycle.

‘[This] could this lead to youth league football being abandoned if games are constantly axed, particularly now while pitches are in good order and before the wet winter kicks in. We hope at Sylvans that Public Health heed the words of the GFA and review this stance for the sake of children’s wellbeing.’

Wayne Martel, Northerners’ vice-president as well as youth coordinator, is of similar mind.

‘In practical terms we have reviewed our risk assessment, shared the protocols on our social media, added more hand sanitiser on site and put up notices reminding parents of the rules. We continue to adopt the guidance in full, as I know other clubs have, and the GFA have rightly insisted upon throughout the pandemic.

‘However, we fully endorse the current guidance being questioned by Gary [Roberts] and the GFA on behalf of the kids who are missing out. This whole period has been about balancing the risks, and it isn’t clear to the community how this is the case here, depriving kids of much needed exercise from a sport played in wide open spaces, where we can manage levels of contact if needed.

‘We are yet to see the full possible impact of the 10-day protocols, but in the first week we have requested two fixture postponements due to 50% of eligible players being unavailable, cancelled a year group training session and seen two youth festivals postponed due to the uncertainty.

‘None of our possible participants having displayed symptoms or tested positive to my knowledge. If the guidance isn’t to change, then some clear communication of its objectives and rationale would help in its understanding and enforcement.’

Hardill said that stopping youth players who are contact traced through an educational setting participating in extra curricular activities flies in the face of the Bailiwick message of learn to live responsibly with Covid message.

‘Obviously we do not want anyone testing positive, or those who are poorly attending any activity, but the vast majority of those children who have been forced to stay away from extra curricular activities are perfectly well, undergoing regular lateral flow testing and could attend.

‘Sylvans as with all sports have worked incredibly hard to provide a safe environment for all post lockdowns and as we live with Covid, therefore it seems at odds that these children can go to school with each other but then be forced to stay away from any other activity.

‘Sport is essential for children’s mental wellbeing for which it is now being deprived for a large number with the impact on football already being felt.

‘I also feel for the GFLM who have to manage the outfall and find a large number of re-scheduling dates so soon into the season having done an excellent job in getting the whole season fixtures out in such good time.’

As for the GFA, the chief executive said yesterday that they would be keeping a close eye on the impact this may have on youth football and if there is a noticeable negative impact.

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