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Coronavirus Kent: Use of Canterbury City Council football pitches suspended by mistake

A red-faced council which has banned use of its football pitches amid the coronavirus outbreak admits it has "jumped the gun" after misreading a news headline.

Dozens of matches across the Canterbury district have been postponed this weekend after the local authority announced it was suspending use of its facilities.

Football has been suspended on pitches run by Canterbury City Council
Football has been suspended on pitches run by Canterbury City Council

But it has since admitted the ban should never have been put in place, blaming the misinterpretation of a national headline which read "all football cancelled".

After reading the story - which referred only to the professional game - the council and its contractor, Serco, set about telling all clubs its pitches were off-limits.

Despite since realising the gaffe, the authority says it is now too late to lift the suspension.

Spokesman Leo Whitlock said: "We are sorry for the misunderstanding which led to us cancelling matches on council pitches this weekend and for the inconvenience this causes to all involved.

"While we know the quality of the football played would sometimes be envied by the likes of Messi, Neymar, Salah and Kane, these games are not classed as elite so are not affected by the FA's ban.

Neil Bowyer is fixtures secretary for the Herne Bay and Whitstable Sunday League
Neil Bowyer is fixtures secretary for the Herne Bay and Whitstable Sunday League

"Much like a mistimed double-footed slide tackle, we misread a news website headline which implied all football was cancelled and jumped the gun.

"The only saving grace is that this will give pitches another week to recover from the appalling weather we have been experiencing."

Among those affected by the suspension are clubs in the Herne Bay and Whitstable Sunday League, which has a season end-date of May 24.

It has already been left with a backlog of unplayed matches because of the bad weather.

The league's fixtures secretary, Neil Bowyer, said: "We're holding a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the situation and what will happen to the leagues and cup competitions."

The Kent FA - which runs grassroots football in the county - says matches can continue as normal.

Chief executive Darryl Haden said: "It is not felt that all grassroots fixtures need to be cancelled as a matter of course at this time, although some may need to be if teams are self-isolating and are unable to play, or if teams are concerned about playing and the league agrees to postpone," he said.

"I would advise all leagues to show common sense, and if there are teams that have players or coaching staff in self isolation then that fixture is postponed.

"This is an evolving situation and there may well be changes in the advice that is given."

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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