So what happens next to our football, Mark Drakeford and the FAW?

Football fans across Wales are awaiting news on what impact today’s Welsh Government announcement of a two-week national lockdown will have on our game.

A brief FAW statement said: “The Football Association of Wales has noted the announcement made today by the Welsh Government regarding the latest developments to their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Welsh Government will introduce a two-week “fire-break” national lockdown from 6:00pm on Friday, 23 October and it will last until Monday, 9 November.

“The FAW will await further details following the announcement made today by the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, to understand the full impact that this will have on the FAW’s Return to Play protocols.

“Once these details have been reviewed, the FAW will release further information.”

Last month, it was hinted a return to competitive senior football in Wales for clubs in tiers 2-5 is highly unlikely until mid-November at the earliest.

That was the message to emerge from the FAW’s ‘Safer Return to Play Protocols for Phase 3′, which became effective from September 21.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all senior football league activity across Wales was halted in March.

During the summer, the FAW introduced a four-phase return-to-football programme which has now reached stage 5.

While the top flight Cymru Premier League – classed under ‘elite athlete status’ – was allowed to restart matches last month, albeit all behind closed doors, tiers 2-5 clubs from this week are currently permitted friendlies only.

This followed stages 1 and 2 – senior, youth, veterans and walking football clubs allowed outdoor contact training for up to 2 groups of 15 players and coaches (total 30).

Then from weeks starting October 5 and 12 (stages 3 and 4) intra-club training matches were permitted within a 30 person limit (intra-club = within the same club – e.g first team v reserves).

This week, beginning October 19, stage 5 states friendly matches will be permitted against other teams, however……

There can be no spectators, max one coach and first-aider per team

Limited number of substitutes and game length.

These friendlies can be played over a three-week period and local lockdown restrictions may impact who clubs are able to play.

That is the stage we are at now after the Welsh Government’s announcement today.

Stage 6 could see league and cup matches resume, but no date has been mooted for that scenario.

The FAW states season structure would need to be flexible and there will be no spectators allowed.

Under Welsh Government rules, a further increase in the 30-person limit would be required for Welsh football to continue to progress beyond the current stage 5.

This number is particularly limiting for 11 v 11 matches and competitions to return. There would need to be an amendment to match-day officials being included within the 30-person limit.

Currently, they are included meaning an 11 v 11 match with 3 substitutes each team, 1 referee and a coach and first aider for each team would exceed the 30-person limit.

For more details on the return to football progress log on to: faw.cymru/en/

Clubs are advised to read up on the latest COVID-19 regulations, which the FAW updates on its website regularly.

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