Sadly, COVID is still very much with us and the new omicron variant is proving to be extremely transmissible. Thankfully, we seem to be in a much better place than this time last year although we shouldn’t forget that 200 people a day are dying from this and our thoughts go to anyone within the YEL Community who have suffered this tragedy within their family/friends. Equally, we should all be incredibly grateful to all the NHS workers who are still nursing those seriously ill patients in hospital two years after this all started.
As a league, we take the health of our participants very seriously and this is our number one priority over and above everything else.
As always, throughout this pandemic, our challenge has been to plan in the background for various different scenarios to ensure that we are able to provide football, wherever possible, regardless of the direction COVID takes us. We have had to second guess the pandemic and also Government policy. A lot of time has been spent on plans which ultimately weren’t needed but, nevertheless, had to be created just in case events took a different direction. As an example, we made the decision early in August 2021 to restrict our Winter season to divisions of eight (with additional friendlies which could be cancelled) to ensure that the league was completed in time for Christmas. This proved to be particularly prudent and, unlike a number of leagues playing traditional season long home and away fixtures where fixture backlog is piling up, our Winter season finished on time.
The most appropriate plan that we are now looking to implement for the Spring season is similar to the Winter season with a couple of updates. We firmly believe it is sensible to follow the Winter league plan with a maximum of eight team divisions for U11 to U14 and for the U9/U10 competitive phase, six team divisions. The remainder of the dates will be filled with friendlies/cup fixtures. All U7/U8s will continue to play friendlies in regularly reviewed development divisions.
We are confident of completing the cup competitions however this will be constantly under review depending on how COVID case numbers/cancellations and Government/Public Health England guidance affect the fixture programme. Our priority is to complete the leagues/mini leagues in the Spring season.
Cancellations – we are very aware of the current estimates of 1 in 25 people in England currently having COVID. Children’s football will not be shielded from this and clubs/teams must follow the current isolation rules set by the government/Public Health England.
In light of the above and the impact it is likely to have on YEL games, the decision has been taken that teams will NOT be penalised for cancelling games at short notice – up to the day before the game – for COVID related issues of manager/ players not being available through having to self isolate provided, at the time of cancellation, they supply full details to the YEL Office – firstname.lastname@example.org – of the players/managers who are isolating and the date they tested positive. Any team failing to provide this information will be referred to the YEL Discipline Team for possible sanction/fine.
Should a match be cancelled due to COVID, we will do our best to reschedule the league games to a later date. Friendlies will be removed and not rescheduled. The season is set to finish no later than 25th May 2022 and we reserve the right to implement league regulation 15 – ‘Emergency Plan for the conclusion of a season’ – if necessary.
On the day cancellations will still be referred to the YEL Discipline team and the league reserves the right to award the game to the opposition and/or impose a fine. It is therefore, vitally important teams monitor the health of their players up to and including the day before the game. We would urge everyone to do their best to play the games. We do not want the integrity or the reputation of the YEL to be in any way tarnished by anyone using COVID as an excuse not to play a game just because a key player is otherwise unavailable.
Finally, we are looking at ways of arranging games for teams who have their opposition cancel on them at short notice. More details will follow shortly.
Rob Harwood CEO
For and on behalf of the YEL Board 4th January 2022