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Latest message from Pete Ackerley including a Return to Play FAQ

I hope that everyone in the British American football community managed to have as safe and pleasant a festive break as possible given the current circumstances. I know that a worrying rise in infections and another lockdown is not where we’d hoped to find ourselves at the start of 2021 and as a result many of you are concerned about the immediate future of our sport.

The two burning questions that we are receiving are ‘Will there still be a 2021 season?’ and, if not ‘Will I get a refund?’

I have attempted to answer these, as well as a number of other questions relating to our Return to Play plans, in as much detail as possible in the Q&A below.  Please take a moment to read through, and if you have any further questions you can contact me, our mailbox or your competition lead.

I also plan to hold two virtual ‘townhall’ style meetings over the coming weeks – one for the contact community, and one for the flag community. During these sessions I’ll give you a more detailed update of where we are with our plans, based on the current information we have at that time.

You’ll also get an opportunity to submit questions or share your views in advance which helps me understand how to best focus the meeting. Look out for an invite to take part coming soon.

In the meantime, please stay safe, stay home except for essential reasons and remember to be kind to yourself and each other.


Return to Play – FAQ

What can I expect from BAFA over the coming weeks?
We will continue to work on Return to Play and competition planning to make sure that as soon as there are updates from our home nations governments on the lifting of restrictions, we are ready to respond swiftly.  We already had advanced plans in place for a return to modified contact from mid-January with a return to competition planned from May which had to be put on hold. These plans were developed in conjunction with input from BAFCA, competition leads and the rules committee.

We will look to update and flex these plans as soon as we have more clarity on when the current lockdown restrictions might be lifted and what ongoing restrictions might remain in place going forward.

Will there be a 2021 National Leagues season?
That is our aim, and we are planning for a 2021 National Leagues season. However, to set your expectations, it’s likely to look a little different to what you’re used to.

Our competition leads are working to put a number of different scenarios in place based on us being able to restart at different points in the year. These plans will be designed to allow for a realistic period of practice ahead of games recommencing and will look different for different formats and age groups – as many have their own unique challenges and some formats may be more impacted than others.

We are already looking to move to separate Return to Play pathways for contact and flag formats, reflecting that flag is likely to be able to return safely to competition ahead of contact and that our contact teams will also have a phased return to modified contact practice.

The season for all formats is likely to start later than usual and run later into the autumn – bringing a potential overlap to manage for adult contact teams with the start of the 21/22 BUCS pre-season, should this go ahead as normal. There may also be less games, fewer teams at tournaments, and more regionalisation of competition to reduce travel.

Particularly for contact, where there is greater risk of close contact, we will also be looking at what additional measures we need to put in place to make sure competition can resume safely, while protecting the integrity of our game on the field as much as possible. In other words  – what can we do to reduce the risk of transmission without changing the rules of the game itself?

What might change or influence your plans?
We don’t yet have a clear timeline for when current enhanced restrictions will be lifted. We also don’t know if the current National Lockdown measures in place in England, Scotland and Wales will revert to the previous tier / protection level / alert level systems in place once eased or if different or additional restrictions will be introduced. It’s also highly likely that the three UK nations with teams under BAFA’s auspices will continue to move at a different pace when it comes to easing restrictions which will impact on any plans for cross-border competition.

Crucially, we also don’t yet know if the new, more transmissible variant of Covid-19 will have an impact on the levels of proximity and duration of contact previously judged to be acceptable in our plans. For this we will need to wait on guidance and updates from the DCMS and UK Government.

On a more positive note, we hope that the roll-out of the vaccination programme will start reducing case numbers and transmission over the coming months, which may mean we can accelerate or expand our plans.

Will I get a refund if the season is cancelled or shortened in some way?
If the 2021 season is cancelled in full, we commit to refunding any player registrations in full, minus a small deduction to cover the processing fee charges already paid out by BAFA to our third-party payment platform.  This will apply to players in all cancelled competitions. Should any competition be significantly curtailed – if you have far fewer games than you would normally expect – then a pro-rata refund will be made to reflect this.

We’d also like to remind players that BAFA membership fees also cover an insurance element. As and when you return to practice, membership will be required.

What about coaches?
Refunds for coaches will be discussed with BAFCA over the coming weeks, and we will update you when a decision has been made.

What about university football?
The return to campus for the majority of university students has been paused until at least mid-February, and universities in Scotland have already advised that the majority of students are not expected to return until at least the start of March.  The proposed BUCS League and Knockout Extraordinary season for 2020-21 has also now been cancelled. When updated and shared, BAFA’s Return to Play guidance will continue to apply to BUCS teams, and BAFA will continue to work with BUCS to understand whether there is an appetite for a potential offer for team sports later in Term Two and/or Term Three and what this might mean for student football.

What can I do meantime?
If you are a coach or a member of club management, we urge you to use this time to complete any outstanding administrative actions including Covid-19 officer training, completion of risk assessments and uploading of required club or qualification documentation. We also encourage you continue to engage closely with the membership of your clubs over this difficult time. You can find lots of useful resources to help you from Club Matters.

What about our club Annual General Meetings? We were due to hold these over the coming weeks / months  – what should we do?
These are unprecedented times, and there are unlikely to be any provisions within your constitution for this situation.  Clubs should consider alternative formats for their Annual General Meeting using online meeting tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or can consider postponing until later in the year. Here’s a useful guide to running online meetings effectively from Club Matters.  A guide to Coronavirus and General Meetings is also available from sportscotland and contains useful information that is also applicable for all home nations too.

Are GB or Premier team players classed as Elite athletes? Can they continue to train?
No. This designation is currently only reserved for individuals who make their living from competing in sport or are a nominated athlete or are on a development pathway for the Summer Olympics or Paralympic games, the Winter Olympic or Paralympic games or for the forthcoming Commonwealth games.

Should you have any further questions, please contact