The chairman of Canterbury City Football Club says none of their teams will be forced to play football during the pandemic - even if they’re allowed.
Senior non-elite football is currently suspended while Kent is in Tier 4 Covid restrictions but under-18s can continue to play. Even playing in Tier 3 is a concern to Tim Clark and he’s putting health first, possibly risking sanctions from the leagues they play in.
In a Christmas message to the club, Mr Clark, whose men’s senior side play in the Southern Counties East Football League, said: “Football has changed and is now facing a lot of uncertainty. Of course everybody wants it to be played and we have to find the right way to do so.
“We have to trust that the leagues that we compete in take above all the health and safety of everyone involved in making football possible at our levels.
“What we do need to remember is that football at our level is secondary to many. We mostly all have full time occupations and players are not under contract.
“Nobody should feel under any pressure to attend or perform against their wishes. We don’t have the same testing systems as top flight football. Every football match sees over 35 people involved, these are certainly not from the same bubble.
“To that end, myself and other club officials have made the difficult decision to not attend fixtures of any kind whilst the county remains in tiers three or four.
“These are very much individual decisions based on personal circumstances and as such will vary from person to person. We must all do what we feel is personally right for us in unprecedented times, particularly as a more infectious strain of the virus emerges.
“Our duty of care is for the health and safety of anyone involved within Canterbury City FC.
“Of course with these decisions it makes other matters slightly more difficult. But what is football without obstacles!
“We won’t allow any teams to suffer and will always have discussions with any leagues we are involved with. We will act as much as we can within the guidelines, but it is important to remember these are guidelines and not directives.
“I am aware that refusal to play could lead to discussions of removal from competition as has been made aware to me. I of course want to avoid that, but I also want to avoid 30+ families having to isolate after each game of football. Due to the unprecedented high number we are witnessing in the county, that is more of a possibility now than it has been in the last 6 months or so.
“I remain hopeful of a good return to football in 2021 and the club pushing forward. I further hope that the club can provide good news in the progression of facilitating our own stadium. Although the pandemic has put a halt to people being in actual offices, I can assure everybody that hard work behind the scenes has continued.”
Guidance from the Football Association for those areas now under the strictest Covid sanctions is that outdoor sport for under-18s and disabled people is allowed but players cannot move in or out of Tier 4 to train or play.
The Southern Counties East Football League is currently suspended until January 16 while the Kent County League, where the club have a reserve side, is hoping to restart a week earlier.
City have an under-18 side playing in the East Kent Youth League. League fixtures in the EKYL have been suspended throughout December with a hopeful return in January, subject to review, taking into account all updates from the FA and Government. Friendly fixtures have been allowed, however.
The club also have disability teams and a side in the South East Counties Women’s League, with their last league fixtures being played in November.