FSA Briefing: Thurs 14 January 2021
On Thursday evening (just before Arsenal ground out an uninspiring draw with
Palace) Jo Denham, AISA’s FSA and Supporters Group rep, attended an online
briefing to find out more about the new covid-19 protocols introduced following
recent lapses by players in following social distancing rules on the pitch.
The joint statement from The FA, Premier League and EFL is here;
Football carries on in Lockdown 3, so players, coaches, and everyone
involved in making sure matches go ahead needs to abide by the rules to limit to
spread of the pandemic.
Players and club officials are tested twice a week and strict COVID-19 procedures
are followed depending on results. So if an individual does test positive, that initiates
the contact trace procedure and all the requirements for self- isolation. The fitness
level of players is then assessed before they can return to playing. And the PHE
(Public Health Authority) are advising club medical staff and safety authority officials.
The PL would prefer to highlight good practice but can impose sanctions on clubs if
they are not adhering to the protocols i.e. at training grounds. They can also impose
sanctions on individual players if they are deemed to be bringing the game into
disrepute on the pitch. If players are not following protocols off the pitch then clubs
are expected to take appropriate act as they are the employer. We’ve already seen
several examples of players behaving as if the pandemic doesn’t exist or the rules
don’t apply to them; it looks like the message is that if clubs don’t take action, players
could face action from the league.
Unfortunately the current state of the pandemic and the failure of the government to
contain it means fans are not likely to return to stadia any time soon. But everyone
involved in football will be monitoring the impact of vaccination and testing
programmes so that, when it does become possible to open turnstiles again,
sensible decisions can be made about the number of fans who could return, and
what social distancing measures and other safety protocols will be required.
There will need to be a transition period and clubs/safety authorities will need to
review and amend the current procedures and guidance as necessary.
Clubs have assumed that there will no return of fans this season and therefore no
revenue from gates. Some clubs have/are readjusting (or re-negotiating) their
finances. We should be under no illusion of the impact the pandemic has had (and
continues to have) on football clubs most of whom, like Arsenal, rely heavily on the
income they generate from match days.
Everyone would prefer the season to finish on the pitch rather than by ‘artificial’
measures; clubs have signed up to use any ‘windfall’ gaps that may emerge to
finish the season; so the PL will go right up to 11.59pm on last day of season (23
May) if necessary.
Rearranging matches: PL can require matches to be played at 2 days notice if teams
have 14 registered players including a goalkeeper but obviously would prefer to give
teams more notice. Clubs are fully consulted – those involved in possible fixture
change and those that may have a knock on impact.
Postponing fixtures: each case is determined on its merits before a fixture is
postponed. Factors include: covid19 testing & result timescales, impact on players’
training; medical & science data.
Finally, discussions still ongoing about the next batch of broadcast scheduling (to
take us to the end of February) but likely to be similar to the current ‘emergency’
There is almost certainly no return of PPV; the PL and broadcasters are very aware of
‘fans’ views, and we should chalk that down as an ‘away win’ for the FSA and fan’s
groups like AISA who campaigned on this.
The PL do not have the sole power in the broadcasting contracts. The FSA
emphasised that football fixture scheduling is priority and broadcasters work to that,
not the other way round. However, scheduling is likely to be impacted by
involvement in domestic & European cups.
And that was the end of the meeting, thanks to Jo for her report and for sitting in and
representing AISA and our members. Throughout the pandemic the AISA committee has been attending meetings like this and with Arsenal FC, quietly but clearly sticking up for Arsenal fans everywhere. It’s what we do.
Remembering David Rocastle - new podcast
A member sent us this audio recording made shortly after Rocky's death. It's six minutes long.