FAW reveal extended list of who can attend matches – but clubs are not happy

Nick Murphy in goalkeeping action. He is also secretary of Holyhead Town

North Wales clubs insist the FAW have not gone far enough in their latest measures to bring back football safely.

Last week, the Welsh Government announced it would not be increasing the 30-person limit for involvement in football friendlies across Wales.

However, a small amendment to the original rule offered clubs some encouragement.

It stated: “Anybody who is there to organise or support the activity, if they are working or providing a voluntary service, can also attend and do not need to be considered within the limit of 30.”

The FAW said it would provide clarification in due course on which positions fall into this provision within the guidelines.

On Monday, a number of clubs received notifications from the FAW/FAW Trust explaining the exceptions.

The e-mail said:

The following individuals WILL be included within the 30-person limit:
Match officials

The following persons are EXEMPT from the 30-person limit:
First aiders
COVID officers
Area Association/league officers
Club secretary

While the clubs Grassroots North Wales contacted welcomed any form of improvement to the status quo, they stressed further changes are required to enable football to run smoother.

Clubs at all levels can currently play friendlies, but no competitive football has yet taken place below tier 1 this season.

Tiers 2 and 3 could soon be given the go-ahead to begin their campaigns if they are included on a new ‘elite’ list from Sports Wales.

Tiers 4 and 5 remain in limbo.

Nick Murphy, secretary of tier 5 Holyhead Town

Nick Murphy with daughter Kaycee. Photo taken in 2017

“In all honesty, it’s better than what was last proposed. However, it takes more than the people mentioned to run a club.

“It’s getting harder and harder trying to find volunteers to help the set up on match day. Now we’re asking for help but also for them to stay away from the game.

“I really worry for the people who run the clubs that if this carries on they may just not bother when things resume.

“I understand it’s a hard situation, I really do and the FAW are only trying to keep people safe, however it’s going to have a massive impact on clubs for next season if you’re picking certain individuals in the club and pushing away the rest.

“To me a secretary is just as important as a groundsman. It could cause a divide in clubs.

“Many secretaries aren’t as young as myself with Town. I can jump up and down a ladder to stick the nets up.

“A lot of secretaries are pensioners who have done the muddy jobs of picking up kit, climbing on ladders, setting nets out etc and simply enjoy the paperwork side of things while the younger lot do the muddy jobs.

“Let’s just hope this doesn’t push people away – that’s my biggest worry. COVID has hit grassroots football bad this year. Let’s just hope it doesn’t hit it even more with people stopping next year.

“You’re technically asking the same four people to: Set nets before game; Set corner flags; Do Comet; update social media; collect balls; fill water bottles; sanitize and wash water bottles every so often; pull nets down; take few photos; write match report; take nets down after game.

“That is a lot of jobs for a certain amount of people. It’s going to be tough 100% but I’m sure we will still do it because we love the game so much.

“I hope one good thing if anything comes out of this is that people have missed the game and more spectators come in and support local football when it’s all over.”

Paul Cheung, chairman, Llandudno Albion of tier 3 Ardal North West

“It’s a step in the right direction and will make it slightly easier as we can now have 13 players and two coaches or 14 and one coach, but still the problem is the amount of players allowed.

“If this is in for the long haul it’s just not possible to compete competitively throughout a season with a 13-man squad.

“The football quality will be affected, we will lose players as you’re leaving four out every week and players will struggle physically not playing for so long and then being asked to play 90 minutes.”

Sean Brett, manager of tier 4 CPD Glantraeth

Sean Brett (second left) with Glantraeth officials

“It doesn’t really help teams as only the first aider would have been originally included (in the exempt list) so maybe it gets us one more player only, but that would mean the manager is still on his own.”

Sion Williams, joint-manager of tier 4 Prestatyn Sports

Sion Williams (second from right) with the Prestatyn Sports committee

“I’m in disbelief at it. All they had to do was add management to that list and the leagues could have started with 14 or 15 player squads – I think every manager would have taken that.

“I just don’t understand it….they (management) aren’t on the pitch and could easily be away from subs keeping a two-metre distance.

“We temp check everyone so really don’t see why you can have 80 to 100 people inside in a supermarket but can’t have 35 outside at a football ground.

“I think a squad of 15 and one manager set away from the players would be fine to start a league and add the official to the exempt list. And I’m saying that as a co-manager.

“I’d gladly not turn up if it meant the lads could play competitively and I think most managers would take that below elite level.”

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