South West Peninsula League suspended

Ilfracombe Town taking on Ivybridge Town in the South West Peninsula

Ilfracombe Town in action against Ivybridge Town during the early part of the South West Peninsula Premier East season - Credit: Matt Smart

The South West Peninsula League has suspended its season due to the spread of coronavirus.

Following the latest government changes to the tier system in the UK, which sees Devon and Cornwall move from tier 2 to 3, the board released a statement explaining their decision to pause play for the time being.

Relating to the the likes of local Premier East clubs Ilfracombe Town, Torridgeside, Torrington and Holsworthy, among others, it said: "Whilst outdoor team sports are only banned under tier 4, the restrictions on holding such matches in tier 3 are such that it places a burden on club officials, volunteers and supporters to the extent that it is impractical to fully comply without professional, trained staff, to ensure the law is complied with.

"Further, it is financially draining to incur the costs of staging matches without the normal income streams, which the restrictions mean are largely turned off."

The league highlighted how the FA had communicated with clubs in leagues from step three to six to place further restrictions on those playing in tier 3 with regards to risk assessments, noting 'clubs must update their risk assessments and action plans, which were required to be prepared under the previous version of the government guidance, to consider and mitigate the risk posed by permitting spectators to attend fixtures (in particular, how they intend to minimise transmission rates and ensure that spectators comply with social distancing).'


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The SWP League statement continued:

IN TIER 3 AREAS, CLUBS SHOULD PROVIDE ADDITIONAL AND SPECIFIC REFERENCE IN THEIR RISK ASSESSMENT FOR ADDITIONAL TIER 3 RESTRICTIONS;

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  1. HOW SPECTATORS WILL REMAIN 2M APART AND SPREAD EVENLY AROUND THE GROUND
  2. ENSURING THAT IN PERIMETER AREAS SPECTATORS REMAIN ONE PERSONS DEEP
  3. WHERE GROUNDS HAVE COVERED SEATED OR TERRACED AREAS, NO MORE THAN 15% OF ADMITTED SPECTATORS CONGREGATE IN THESE AREAS
  4. HOW SPECTATORS WILL REMAIN IN SINGLE HOUSEHOLD GROUPS ONLY”

The League is also aware that previously issued FA & DCMS instructions that are also valid now, which impact on Tier 3 are:

  1. Maximum Crowds fall from 300 to 150 in Tier 3 (becomes a major issue for several clubs – Falmouth, Saltash & St Austell all average more than 150, and many others have had gates this season over that, and as the festive fixtures showed, if yours is one of only a handful of games being played, the crowd goes up very quickly)
  2. Club houses and Tea huts must remain closed for all bar take away and click & collect (Sitting down with even a substantial meal is gone)
  3. Although Players & bona fide officials CAN travel in and out of Tier 3 for purposes of playing – spectators cannot. This will cause huge issues either side of the border in either Division – Torpoint / Millbrook / Saltash / Callington / Launceston especially but far wider than that too, and how do club officials and club volunteer’s police this?

As a result of these factors, the league chose to suspend all matches with immediate effect, saying competition would only continue when Devon and Cornwall return to tier 2 level, and only after further discussion and having given clubs seven days notice about the restarting of fixtures.

Games until January 15 are postponed and decisions will be made following the next government review of tiers, with the statement adding: "The league board in consultation with the FA and other NLS leagues will actively participate in discussions about how the season maybe concluded, but equally it is only right to state that every week of missed fixtures will mean this becomes impractical.

"As a league we do not support extending this season beyond May and believe next season should start on time, we also believe club staff, players, grounds deserve a normal summer to recharge batteries.

"Finally we are aware that several clubs have expressed strong opinions about a final cut off date to this season due to the previous reasons but also seasonal employment in the tourist industry, seasonal workload and employment in the agricultural industry and the use of grounds and/or people committed to other sports such as cricket.

"The league feel we have tried our very best to get the 2020/21 season up and running in line with the restrictions and pressures imposed. We thank all clubs for their huge efforts, for a while in September and October we were catching games up and making remarkable progress, indeed at the turn of the year we are still the league with the highest percentage of games played in the entire national league system.

"However, the November lockdown, the increasing number of postponements due to either Covid cases or Covid restrictions and the inevitable affect of the weather on our exposed Peninsula has taken its toll.

"We have all given it our best shot and we can hold our heads up high, but for the time being we all have to accept that playing football means nothing if it risks the health, well being or even the lives of any member of our community.

"Because of that alone, the league board asks all to accept the reasons for this decision to suspend the league with immediate affect."

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