Our plea to bring back contact football
Our letter to the Government
Dear Prime Minster,
I am representing a group of companies which provide 5 a-side football, and am writing to express our disappointment at the decision to delay the reopening of outdoor small sided football facilities to play contact football and to seek reassurances for a swift resolution. Our disappointment and frustrations are shared by millions across the country who run, work at and use these community clubs to stay fit and healthy, both physically and mentally.
The industry represents businesses which: - Employs over 3,500 people. - Has 1.3 million adults playing small sided football at least twice a month. - Sees 37.4% or 2.6 million school children take part in football at least once a week, making it the most popular team sport for young people, who are less likely to contract the virus.
Source: SE Active Lives Survey/FA
Our businesses provide 5 a-side, 6-a-side and 7 a-side football, to players of all ages, including under 18’s. We play a major part in local communities via coaching, training, social play, league competitions, walking football for older players, children’s camps and significant charitable work. Essentially, we provide affordable team sports for a cross section of the community. Our facilities serve some of the poorest communities, and more often than not in urban areas. These are the communities hardest hit, and those that need our services the most.
The time players spend in proximity of one another is extremely low, less than 4mins 32 secs during an hour’s game. Source: Powerleague internal assessment
Travel to and from our facilities may be a concern of Government. Hence it is worth mentioning short travel times and significant use of private transport. Our small sided football insight tells us that people travel an average journey time of 20 minutes or less, 76% go by car or walk (only 11% by public transport), 7/10 people travel to/from home.
The omission of our sector from the reopening plans has shocked our sector. The benefits to society from small sided football are extensive, from physical fitness and mental well-being to the positive aspects of social interaction and being part of a team. The message from the Secretary of State stating an aspiration to reopen indoor gyms and leisure facilities in mid- July is something we have noted, but we need clarity that outdoor small sided contact football will be included within this.
Hence would welcome the following:
Provide formal reasons for the omission of small sided contact football from this week’s announcement, including an explanation on how the relative risk of a busy pub at one-metre social distancing is lower than a small sided football match in an outdoor environment.
Explain why playing football is considered more risky than other activities like sitting in a cinema or a plane for two hours plus breathing recycled air and let us know what measures are needed to be undertaken, above and beyond the ones we have already completed, to open up.
Set out a clear timetable for reopening small sided contact football with enough notice to plan effectively.
The consequences of further delays and ambiguity are devastating for our communities and to lose these facilities in the midst of the biggest health crisis could set back public health for a generation. There is also a risk some of our businesses may not survive and the resultant loss of jobs and service to the community.
Finally, we see on social media increasing frustration from players unable to play, and how individuals and groups are already choosing to ignore Government rules and go out and play football, on public but also private land. Is it not better that this be under supervised conditions, and in line with published Government guidance?
Prime Minster we need you to respond to this issue. As an industry, we are all working incredibly hard to prepare for the safe re-opening of small-sided contact football. We are happy to support contact and trace measures as well as ensure physical contact between players is kept to a minimum. We all passionately believe that small sided football has an important part to play in restoring health and well-being to both individuals and our communities. We ask that you prioritise the re-opening of these businesses with contact football and we look forward to hearing from you. Needless to say, we have been in regular dialogue with the FA and Sport England but see the need for a direct response from you.