Lancashire FA suspends grassroots football

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image captionA nationwide ban on outdoor grassroots sport was lifted in England on Wednesday

Grassroots football in parts of Lancashire has been suspended until January.

The Lancashire FA made the announcement on Friday night ahead of a weekend of fixtures and despite a national ban being lifted.

The move affects adult and youth matches and training in eight parts of the county and has provoked an outcry.

Chief executive Simon Gerrard said the decision followed talks with local authorities and health officials.

Lancashire has been in tier three since England came out of lockdown on Wednesday.

The government has placed the county under the tightest restrictions due to a "very high level" of infections.

The suspension affects Pendle, Burnley, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley, Preston and South Ribble.

Former footballer Robbie Savage, who had backed the return of grassroots sports, has asked if the decision "can be overturned to let the kids play".

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BBC sports editor Dan Roan also said there was "a lot of anger from parents and players about the timing of this decision".

A dad described it as "really disappointing", adding that his son, who was due to play this weekend, "has gone to bed in tears... why decide to announce it at 6.30pm on a Friday night when they have had all week?"

While another comment on Twitter read: "The LFA have badly misjudged this. They need to prove that this decision has been balanced against the mental health and well being of kids and everyone during this period."

Mr Gerrard said the game "had a wider social responsibility".

"We appreciate the mental health benefits that involvement in football provides, however, the health and survival of everybody, whether it be players, coaches, referees, volunteers or spectators, is paramount and can't be overlooked," he said.

"Statistics, provided to me throughout our detailed conversations with various stakeholders, highlighted the sheer scale of the potential impact that continuing grassroots football in these eight areas would have - details that I hope we can make public next week."

He said "no festivals or competitions will be sanctioned by Lancashire FA until the end of January".

Mr Gerrard added that players living in the affected boroughs could not play for a team in an unaffected borough.

He said the decision was supported by "all of the local authorities involved, in addition to representatives from public health".

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