Walsall junior footballers 'heartbroken' as matches postponed

Image source, Daniel Fox
Image caption,
Young footballers in the Walsall Junior Youth League will not play any fixtures before Christmas

Youth footballers have been left "heartbroken" and "devastated", their coach says, after a league decided not to resume fixtures before Christmas.

Walsall Junior Youth League (WJYL) met with other leagues and their governing body, Staffordshire FA, on Monday.

They agreed to postpone games until January.

Staffordshire FA said it sought the views of league volunteers and many were "uncomfortable about returning to the game in the short-term".

Daniel Fox, manager of Tividale AFC under-10s, said the decision had caused "outrage among parents".

Non-elite football has been suspended since the beginning of lockdown as part of moves to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Walsall and Staffordshire are currently under the strictest tier three measures, although government guidelines allow organised sport.

Staffordshire FA said there were strong concerns at Monday's meeting about the impact if players, coaches and others caught it and had to self-isolate over Christmas.

It added there were also concerns injured players could put extra strain on the local NHS.

But the following day, the Football Association (FA) released fresh guidance for "non-elite" football in England and said fixtures could resume from Wednesday as long as the latest coronavirus restrictions were followed.

Image source, Christine Garrington
Image caption,
The manager of Tividale AFC under-10s said social distancing measures in place in October could have been used

Mr Fox said he believed the leagues and Staffordshire FA had "jumped the gun" in making their decision.

"They have broken hearts up and down length and breadth of the county," he said.

Dave Thomas, who runs the under-10s at Tipton Town in the league said: "We had measures in place in October including social distancing to minimise the spread of coronavirus and that was when rates were increasing.

"If they were acceptable then, why are they not acceptable now, given rates have been coming down?"

The WJYL has been approached for a response.

Staffordshire FA said it supported all the leagues with their decisions which "we believe have been made for the right reasons" due to the high Covid-19 infection rates in the county.

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