The Harry Gregg Foundation having recognised the desire and many benefits to getting children playing football once more, have completed a consultation with its Youth League member clubs.
The aim to consider the possibilities of a resumption, within the guidelines and in the safest possible manner.
It was explained to the clubs that the decision to remove the annual registration fee for all clubs, to the 2020-21 League and Small Sided Games Centre season, was to enable some flexibility to possible solutions.
As a result of the consultation the Foundation have indicated, that taking into account the current guidance from various legislative bodies and following discussions with the IFA and the facility providers, there still remains many concerns within the youth and community football sector, relating to a safe return to activities.
Namely no changing facilities, reduced or no access to toilets, sanitisation, social distancing, number of teams, family and friends allowed on and around a pitch, the need to clean equipment between matches and the logistics of transport to and from match venues as individual households or within limited bubbles.
Given that the NIBFA, under which most youth clubs are insured, have given a potential start date of not before 4th October, to enable kids time to return to school and assess possible impacts, plus the potential of a further push back. There remains some real uncertainties of when competitive youth football will resume.
Acknowledging that all clubs have resumed training in line with the guidelines, it is obvious that there is a real desire to play matches.
The Foundation note that if they were to commence the season as normal, it could slip into chaos very quickly, given the potential for numerous Covid related postponements due to cluster shut downs and self isolation requirements.
Having taken these considerations and those of the families on board, the Foundation have agreed to pilot a possible interim solution.
They will produce an interim fixture list to support a structured friendly program of matches for all 11aside (Under 13-17) age groups. With the further scenario of splitting the divisions into regional hubs, in an attempt to reduce the travel distances.
Clubs will, by midweek, inform the League admin team if they have a team available. The two participating teams/clubs will then confirm suitable venues and times for the game.
The logic being that any enforced cancellation will have no bearing on the season.
Following a review sometime around Christmas, the Foundation would then aim to introduce Champions league style formats, in the hope that the season could still include an element of competitiveness.