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Coronavirus Kent: Football Association advise all grassroots football should be postponed

Grassroots football organisers are being urged to postpone all matches following the government's latest advice on the coronavirus outbreak - throwing leagues across Kent into chaos.

The Football Association issued a statement last night confirming that all fixtures - even Sunday League and youth games - should be stopped.

Littlebourne taking on Tankerton in the Herne Bay and Whitstable Sunday League
Littlebourne taking on Tankerton in the Herne Bay and Whitstable Sunday League

One Sunday football league has already confirmed it is "on hold", but organisers of a six-a-side competition say games will go ahead as planned.

The FA's statement said: "Following the government’s announcement today, for people to avoid social contact and gatherings where possible, we are now advising that all grassroots football in England is postponed for the foreseeable future.

"We have also decided to postpone all matches across all FA competitions, including those outside of the professional game, until April 3.

"We are committed to trying to complete all competition fixtures and will be liaising with the relevant parties to establish appropriate options to do so."

The decision leaves organisers of grassroots football across the county scratching their heads over how to wrap-up their seasons - with several games still left to play.

It has been suggested that the Premier League could be completed during the summer months. But that option might not be open to Sunday League bosses - as many pitches used for football in the winter are instead used for cricket when the weather gets warmer.

New Town vs FC Neptune in the Sheppey Sunday League
New Town vs FC Neptune in the Sheppey Sunday League

Colin Matthews, secretary of Rising Sun FC, currently sitting third in the Herne Bay & Whitstable Sunday League Premier Division, thinks the measures have gone too far.

He says he understands why fixtures attracting crowds of more than 100 and youth football are being stopped.

"But I personally think they've taken it a step too low," he said.

"At Sunday League games you get five or six people from one side watching and similar on the other side - and you're all out on a field.

"It seems weird to me.

"Youth leagues I can understand that parents would be worried about their kids.

"But adults can take care of themselves. If two sides want to play and no one's got any symptoms, then let them."

Sunday League organisers are being urged to postpone all fixtures
Sunday League organisers are being urged to postpone all fixtures

Elsewhere, the Ashford & District Sunday Football League says the competition is "on hold" and it is awaiting advice from the FA before making any decisions on the remainder of the season.

Bosses will "continue to work with the Kent FA to look into how to complete the current season and fulfil cup final commitments".

But organisers of Soccersixes in Folkestone say games will go ahead as planned.

An email sent to team captains today says: "Please note this isn't ignoring government advice but until the country is put in total lockdown there will be many people who will still want their 40 min of exercise whilst taking all the necessary steps to ensure the spread of the virus is minimised.

"The only way the league will be cancelled is if the venue makes that decision."

Dover Athletic chairman Jim Parmenter
Dover Athletic chairman Jim Parmenter

The FA's statement comes just days after the Premier League and English Football League postponed all matches until April 3.

Gillingham were due to host Fleetwood Town on Saturday in what manager Steve Evans had described as their biggest game of the season.

The club cancelled training this week and told players to stay at home.

Dover Athletic's chairman Jim Parmenter has warned clubs might not be covered for the potential loss of vital matchday revenue.

He said: “The problem with the coronavirus is that it’s not what is described by the insurance companies as ‘a notifiable disease’.

“It’s a new disease, therefore it’s not prescribed in the insurance policies, and therefore, it’s not covered.

"So it’s a really difficult situation.”

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Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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