Covid-19 precautions to usher in safety-first start to season for Rotherham's Sunday footballers

Covid-19 precautions to usher in safety-first start to season for Rotherham's Sunday footballers

By David Beddows | 28/08/2020

Covid-19 precautions to usher in safety-first start to season for Rotherham's Sunday footballers


IT'S all systems go for Rotherham's Sunday footballers although the cloud of Covid-19 is set to hang over the local game for many months.

The 54-club league, one of the biggest of its type in the country, will swing back into action on September 6 but with players, officials and spectators observing social distancing rules.

The guidelines issued by the FA in line with Government advice restrict contact between players before and after games.

Officials are aware that matches could still be put on ice should there be a spike in the virus or local lockdown rules reinforced, and in the meantime no-one connected with the local game is in any doubt what is required.

Sunday League secretary Mark Pilley said: “At the minute we are looking good to start on September 6. Obviously some clubs may come to us and say they can't play because a player has contracted the virus so we have to be flexible and take them at their word.

“At the moment everything is in place.

“All the clubs have had to do a risk assessment and Rotherham Borough Council has done the same at the grounds.

“Clubs also have to have what is called a Covid Officer, someone that a referee, official or player can go to sort out any related problems.

“Obviously it is for us to police it and hopefully the clubs will show common sense and I have to say they have been fantastic so far.

They have sent me loads of paperwork, printing sheets off with players' names on and check lists.

“Other clubs have said they will wear masks and use hand sanitiser. It varies across the scene.”

Despite the restrictions of the “new normal”, it seems local footballers have not been put off.

Numbers have held up and the league only has a handful of vacancies remaining.

“We have nine teams in the Premier Division, ten in the Championship, 11 in Division One and 12 in Division Two and Three,” said Mark.

"That's a total of 54 and we ended last season on 55, one down is not really that bad.

“With how the season finished early, we can't really force teams to go up to the Premier. We've managed to get one to jump up but the rest don't want to and two teams have folded from the Premier — Brinsworth Whitehill and Plough.

“That hasn't helped.”

Mindful of any breaks in the season, officials have put back two cup competitions to the end of the season to allow progress to be made with the league calendar through the autumn and winter months.

“What we are trying to do is get it moving and get what we can played if anything happens,” said Mark.

“The Terry Dewick and George Stainrod cups will be played if time allows because obviously if we have the weather like we did last season then it becomes difficult. They are supplementary cups anyway, they are not guaranteed to be played every year.”

The league is still accepting applications from prospective new clubs but they needed to aware what they were signing up to.

“The bottom two divisions are full,” added Mark. “We have one space in Division One, two in the Championship and one at most in the Premier. We have room for a few teams but they have to go into the top leagues so they need to be really good clubs.”

Anyone interested can contact Mark on 07483 220133.


Matchday musts

Players must arrive ready changed and can't share water bottles and must come with their own.

Everyone must maintain social distancing when pitch side.

Rotherham Borough Council is opening toilets at local authority pitches where they can but will not be opening any changing rooms for the forseeable future.

Some private pitches will have changing rooms open, some not.

All clubs have had to have a Covid-19 risk assessment. 

lFor track and trace clubs have been asked to get the names of any people watching and the names of managers and physios etc.