Football reacts to new coronavirus tiering as grassroots suffers partial shutdown

Louis Chadwick in action for St Neots Town FC

St Neots Town are among those teams who have had their league programme suspended. - Credit: DAVID RICHARDSON/RICH IN VIDEO

Grassroots football has taken a big hit following the latest movement in coronavirus tiers.

Saturday's surprise announcement by the government, which moved large swathes of the south-east to a previously unheard of tier four, led the FA to release further guidance and restrictions for non-elite football, an over-arching description that covers steps non-league football below the National League South, the lower steps of the women's pyramid and indoor and outdoor grassroots football.

They said: "Further to the government’s announcement, football for adult participants across non-elite football in tier four areas is not permitted, including all training and fixtures.

"Organised outdoor sport for U18s and disabled people will be allowed.

"The government’s guidelines on travel between tiers should be adhered to. Players cannot move in or out of tier four to train or play.

"The guidance confirms that elite sportspeople, and their coaches if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are U18, are able to compete and train.

"If there are any further updates from government we will communicate these in due course."

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The Southern League, home of St Ives Town and St Neots Town had already taken the decision to suspend fixtures prior to the tier four announcement.

Speaking last week they said: "[We] have unanimously agreed to continue with the pause of the season.

"Since the initial survey on December 2 the infection rate has deteriorated in the geographical footprint of our member clubs which has resulted in a larger number being placed in tier three.

"In reaching this decision the board considered several factors such as the lack of income from secondary spend revenue, the reduced attendances at tier three clubs and more importantly, the duty of care the league has to players, club officials, volunteers and supporters during this current pandemic."

They have not set a formal restart date but said it was unlikely to be before January 9 and that they will give clubs at least 10 days notice, "allowing them preparation time to stage league matches".

The Spartan South Midlands League had originally planned to continue with fixtures but following Saturday's announcement they said "the FA has confirmed that all fixtures [are] suspended until further notice". That affects Eynesbury Rovers.

The United Counties League and the Eastern Counties League though, as well as the Cambs County League, will stage some fixtures.

Both St Ives and St Neots did manage to get some football in before the shutdown although both games saw them exit the FA Trophy.

St Neots travelled to former Football League side Hereford and hit the post inside 16 seconds  before going down 3-0.

St Ives too were away to a National League North side and gave a good account of themselves despite the final score of 5-0.