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BAFA update on 2020 season and COVID-19 – 12 May

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Contact season to be cancelled; flag season under review

Firstly, and most importantly, I hope everyone in British American football is staying safe and well.

In my last update, on 9 April, I said that we wanted to consult with our community on how we might return to playing action and to find the best possible solutions for British American football in these unprecedented times. I sincerely thank everyone who has shared their feedback and thoughts.

Contact football
Having listened to your views, assessed the latest advice from the Government and reviewed all the options on the table, we have made a decision to cancel the contact season across adult, junior and youth. In addition, the Diamond Series will be postponed until 2021.

I mentioned previously that we were looking at a potential start date for the season of mid-July. Feedback from teams and coaches is that a minimum of a six-week pre-season will be required before any competitive action can take place, meaning a go-ahead decision is needed in early/mid-May. Given the latest update we have received from the Government, we are simply not in a position to make this go-ahead decision for a mid-July start to the season. And the overwhelming feedback from the teams is that, in this scenario, they would prefer the certainty and clarity of the season being cancelled.

This is why we have taken this decision even though we all, of course, want to see contact football played in 2020. We have tried to give it every chance we can, but once logistical challenges such as transport, venues and medical cover are also factored in, it’s become clear that it’s just not feasible.

Teams have said they would be keen to potentially play friendly fixtures later in the year, if this is possible, and this is something we will absolutely support if public health guidelines allow for it. We will keep this situation under constant review and confirm as/when training and friendly games can take place.

Flag football
The situation for flag football is slightly different. Flag football clearly has fewer logistical challenges than contact, and the same duration of pre-season is not required before competitive action can start.

The feedback from our flag teams is that they would like to give the season every possible opportunity to take place. Therefore, we are keeping the option open for an adult flag season to start in August, and youth and cadet seasons to start in September. Of course, this will be completely subject to Government advice allowing for this.

We will keep the situation under review and flag seasons may have to start at short notice – but the view from the flag community is that they would rather take this chance than call off the season now.

We are expecting to receive updated guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) on recreational sporting activity shortly and once we have reviewed this, we will make a further announcement on a plan for return to play – in terms of both practice and the potential flag season.

Membership
I understand, given the updates above, there will be questions about membership and fees. I can confirm today that the majority of our contact members will receive a partial refund of their 2019-20 membership fee over the coming weeks. There is further detail on this in the Q&A document which I reference below.

For flag players, we will keep the situation with membership fees on hold for the time being until we have a clear picture on the outcome of the season.

Like many other National Governing Bodies for sport, we are facing considerable challenges at the moment and I hope you can appreciate that we need to remain sustainable and ready to deliver football as and when the time comes. There are also significant operational costs of running a National Governing Body that will continue over the coming months, even though we will not have a competitive contact season.

Work on core priorities, such as developing all formats of the game, creating the long term sustainable future strategy of the sport, building commercial and public funding partnerships, and implementing a new digital communications and branding strategy, will carry on as normal. Membership fees contribute towards these operational costs in addition to the organisation and running of the competitive season.

Questions
There is a lot to take in here, and I appreciate you may have further questions. You will find attached a Q&A document that has been prepared to try and answer your queries. I hope this is useful and provides additional detail where required. If there are still areas which you’re unsure about, please do contact me or BAFA Operations Manager Clive Dobbin.

I would like to end by saying that all of the decisions outlined above have been taken with your best interests and safety at heart, and after listening closely to your views. We asked what you thought as a community and have responded accordingly, with decisions underpinned by practicality and the advice we are being given by the Government.

This is an extremely difficult situation for us all, and it goes without saying that BAFA passionately wants to see football played, and we will do everything we can to help organise practices, friendlies and flag tournaments as and when this is possible. We are extending the season until the end of October to provide as much opportunity as we can to allow some playing action to take place.

This is a challenge both individually and also as the National Governing Body. We are working on a number of projects currently with key partners to identify and create further resources into our game to support both individual participants and the sport as a whole. I will keep you informed with developments as they progress.

We must focus on protecting the long-term future and integrity of our sport so that we can successfully overcome this unprecedented period. As we continue to do this, I hugely appreciate your patience, understanding and passion – and I urge everyone to stay safe, remain healthy, and support each other and our mental health.

Pete Ackerley, BAFA Chief Executive

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