Grassroots football is back! Well, it will be by the 29th of March all being well.

But if you’re involved in the sport you’ll already know that. And it’s probably all you’ve been thinking about since the Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown was announced on the 22nd of February.

This was welcome news to those of us who have been missing the camaraderie, the last-minute winners, the ups, the downs, the muddy pitches, the exercise and basically everything about grassroots football.

There’ll also be an understandable level of anxiety amongst some. Our communities have been hit hard. Many have lost loved ones and the full-time whistle of this battle is still some way from being blown. So is it a little too much, too soon?

To gauge the feelings of the football community ahead of the return to action, we put the call out to some of our customers and as always, they delivered.

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Will leagues be completed? If so, what’s the feeling about this?

First of all, we wanted to know if club’s had been made aware of their league situation. Are they picking up where they left off? Has it been null and voided? Have they even heard anything on that?

Whilst some are yet to have this confirmed, the general consensus on that seems to be that leagues will continue, with the season extended to June. However, one of our customers said that their league had been null and voided but the cups were continuing.

Extending the season slightly to account for lost time does seem sensible but is not without it’s own challenges and concerns…

“At present there hasn’t been much information other than the proposed return date and the the season is likely to be carried on trough to June. This however will cause some problems with pitch availability. At Beacon Hill for example we share the grounds with the Cricket club so the extended football season will clash with the Cricket season. So that’s not going to work.” (Beacon Hill JFC)

“I’m in our league’s committee and there is a giant sense of hesitation about the news. The people that organise grassroots leagues are all volunteers and have all been negatively impacted by Covid-19. The hesitation has led many to second guess if we’re even coming back, to asking whether or not creating a contingency plan for football’s return is even worth putting effort into, given that it is still a month away. It’s a long time for Covid-19 to potentially mutate further, and a long time for the government’s roadmap to change tracks. There’s still a long way to go and most will be awaiting further FA guidelines before they jump in.” (Hype Train FC)

“I am sure that there will be some weeks where we will need to play midweek and on the weekend if we are to complete the season in such a short period of time, but players/coaches are up for it!” (Bloomsbury Football)

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What’s been the reaction of players/coaches/parents in the team WhatsApp group?

WhatsApp groups up and down the country fell dormant throughout the pause in play. But, this latest news has finally given them something to talk about…

“Parents and players can’t wait to get back to normal! Getting back to regular exercise and football is going to benefit the kids a great deal and I can’t wait to get back to coaching… I’ve missed it!” (Beacon Hill JFC)

“Without any football to look forward to, our WhatsApp group has been very quiet. When a group of like-minded individuals have the one thing they unite for taken away, it’s easy to completely switch off and become distant. It’s what has happened with us, and what has happened to other teams, I’m sure of it. Now that the news has broken that they might have to go to training and games again, the group has woken up and there’s finally something to look forward to again.” (Hype Train FC)

“There’s a lot of excitement! We were mounting a decent title challenge before football stopped, so we’re excited to get back on the field and show our best again.” (Gospel Oak FC)

“I have been really impressed with the team during lockdown counting down until they can get back on the pitch. As soon as the announcement was made the clubs social media was a hive of activity with the word BUZZIN the most used.” (Barnstaple Ladies)

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Any nerves ahead of the return?

Once the initial excitement of the news has subsided, the reality of getting back to the grind of organising a football team comes back into focus. But now, with added complications. So it can be understood that some may find the idea of bringing football back a bit daunting, especially with some questions still left to be answered. But on the whole, excitement seems to be the overwhelming emotion at the moment, along with a determination to get things right.

“Oddly, I think it’s just excitement. We are a club that in it’s first season, showed that it can handle itself in a tough league with ex-professionals and semi-professionals. We are also growing online and in Camden, meaning there is a buzz around the team. The team is also getting bigger and better, so we have good competition in the squad.” (Gospel Oak FC)

“Not nervous for the restart, just have a lot of work to do in order to ensure that everything is in place so that we are ready.” (Bloomsbury Football)

“There are a few organisational nerves mostly – will our home pitch be available? If not, is it too late to find a short-term alternative? Will the same tier systems be in place to deny certain clubs travel to other areas that might prevent us playing? Summer sports won’t like grassroots football clubs stepping on their toes as they have as much right to play their chosen sport at any time, so there is a fine balancing act to be had by extending the season.” (Hype Train FC)

“Not nervous but apprehensive, it is important that people follow the rules i.e only one parent watching. Hopefully the vulnerable will have been vaccinated by the time we start again.” (Urmston Meadowside)

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What has been missed the most?

There’s a lot to miss about grassroots football. It’s a weekend institution for millions of people. And having all of that ripped away not just once, but twice was difficult. But, with a sense of optimism in the air, there’s a lot to look forward to and a lot of lost time to make up for! But one theme really came through when we asked what had been missed the most… The people.

“The people, the project and the lifestyle are all massive factors that have been greatly lacking over the course of the past year. This team of players include some of my best friends and some of the nicest, dedicated players and volunteers you could imagine. A football team is a big release from the ordinary and we’re looking to connect with each other again as we look to finally develop as a unit after two years of stop-start-stop-start action.” (Hype Train FC)

“The camaraderie. There’s nothing better than bringing people together for the same cause. It sounds cliché but it feels like we’ve built up a little family at Gospel Oak.” (Gospel Oak FC)

“I have missed my social life. I am club secretary, manager and player so my club and its members are a huge part of my life.” (Thetford Bulldogs)

“It will do wonders for everyone and their mental health. I have personally missed the social side, the changing room banter and also letting off some aggression by shouting (constructively) at the players from the side lines.” (Horsforth Saints FC)

“The boys in our squads form a close friendship and some of them have played together for 5-6 years since u7. There is a real bond between our players at Clapham Rangers that resonates beyond just the football. We are a community club and though one faction of our boys go to the same school, friendships are born between the parents and players that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred.” (Clapham Rangers FC)

“What we have all missed the most is each other’s company and the banter that you find within the club. We have a great group of ladies here who are hungry to build on what we have achieved in the past two years since our foundation.” (Barnstaple Ladies)

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Preparing for 29th of March

The coming month is sure to fly by and there is so much to organise before play resumes. Plus, after a long and for many, inactive winter, some intensive fitness training is sure to be on the cards for kids and adults alike.

“I have just started a virtual challenge for some of my players that has gone down really well. A group of the boys will ‘Kick a ball up Mount Everest’. Each Saturday morning they will run a mile with the ball, dribbling, doing skills etc. Collectively their individual miles will all add up to the 40 mile total to the virtual top of the mountain. This will keep their fitness up, help to maintain their ball control and individual skills, gives them something to focus on and look forward to each Saturday morning and they get a nice Medal at the end of it!” (Beacon Hill JFC)

“From a team perspective, some of the team have been active and I’ll be reaching out to everyone individually for a progress report on what they’ve been up to in their time at home and if there’s anything I need to do to get people’s feet moving again.” (Hype Train FC)

“The biggest challenge we’ll face will be booking pitches with our home pitch being used for cricket. I can see the football season being extended even longer for some as so many pitches will be booked up for cricket and not football, meaning some teams won’t have a pitch when football returns.” (Gospel Oak FC)

“We currently have a Strava group for all those waiting to get started, to provide some friendly competition and motivation to keep being active. Although we will start to convert this into a mandatory run each week to ensure fitness levels start to increase.” (Ashmount Leigh WFC)

“Between now and the restart of the season, we will be sending out fitness session plans for individuals and we have a training session as soon as we’re allowed. We have to put the trust in our players that the fitness is being done or it will make selection for our first starting 11 a difficult one.” (Horsforth Saints FC)

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Get Ready for the Return with Match Day Essentials

Time to get organised! Need to top up your team’s shorts and socks? Match ball gone missing during lockdown? In need of some bibs for training?

Well, for those very reasons we’ve put together a Match Day Essentials range. It’s full of all the match kit top ups, footballs and equipment that your team needs come 29th of March.

The clock is ticking!

SHOP MATCH DAY ESSENTIALS

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