Post-match pasties will be strictly off the menu as Cornish clubs in the step six South West Peninsula League wrestle with the unique implications arising from the government’s latest tiered lockdown system.
Solely comprising clubs from Cornwall, the only county currently granted full tier one status, action in the league’s Premier West division might have been expected to resume with some semblance of normality this weekend.
Instead, faced with players and fans bussing in from tier two areas, club officials have been spending this week frantically trying to define what constitutes a “substantial meal”, and even struggling with the concept of multi-entry tea huts.
TOMORROW – ⚽️— St Blazey AFC (@StBlazeyAFC) December 4, 2020
St Blazey’s players, who mostly reside in Plymouth despite the club being nestled deep within tier one territory, have taken the unilateral decision not to go into their own clubhouse following their match against Saltash on Saturday.
Saltash players, the majority of whom hail from tier one despite, confusingly, the town being situated just across a bridge from the tier two border, will nevertheless be able to avail themselves of their opponents’ hospitality.
St Blazey chairman Martin Richards said: “Most of our players are from tier two, so according to the regulations they can travel to the game and play in it, but they can only enter their own clubhouse if they have a substantial meal.
“We were going to provide food for the players in order that they could come in, but the regulations would still mean that they would have to leave immediately afterwards, so the players have taken the decision not to do so.
After the success of "Re-Start1" in September…— SOUTH WEST PENINSULA FOOTBALL LEAGUE (@swpleague) December 4, 2020
“It’s a weird situation and in my opinion, for teams like us that are in tier one but have tier two players, it is just going to become a nightmare. The league makes the final decision (about playing on), but it just seems ridiculous.”
Saltash, meanwhile, intend to specifically remind their minority of tier two based players of their responsibilities prior to the match, despite the regulations which both clubs accept are virtually impossible to police.
“It’s madness – you could have a situation where players are being asked where they live in order to get into the clubhouse,” said Saltash manager Dane Bunney. “It’s something that is filled with so many inconsistencies.”
Such inconsistencies afflict the league as a whole. While the Premier West comprises entirely Cornish clubs, all but two of the 20 clubs in Premier East hail from tier two Devon, meaning stricter social rules which could adversely affect finances.
3 days and footy is back 🙌🏻— Millbrook AFC (@MillbrookAFC) December 2, 2020
For Millbrook, one of just two tier-one clubs in the otherwise tier-two league, the complexities almost outweigh the positive benefits of restarting the season at all.
“For us it is really quite awkward,” said chairman Mark Pratten. “If a tier-two club wants to bring supporters then you have go to look at some form of segregation.
“You have to police things like whether they can use the tea hut – can they use it separately, or do you have to set up a different entry and exit point for them? What about the toilets, which are in the clubhouse?
“People make jokes about scotch eggs and whether they’re substantial meals… what happens when someone catches Covid, or the licensing authorities turn up and find you’re liable?
Update on this: The FA regulation remains at 300 after advice published yesterday.Home clubs on 26/12 & 28/12 need to consider the 300 limit now, so that they have formulated plans for the higher festive crowds at many local derbies.@swsportsnews@Cornishfootballhttps://t.co/dcJqEaAVkY— SOUTH WEST PENINSULA FOOTBALL LEAGUE (@swpleague) December 3, 2020
“It’s so awkward that it gets to the point where it almost takes the gloss off wanting to stage and watch a match at all.”
SWP League secretary Phil Hiscox said Premier East clubs will be allowed to decide whether they want to play under such circumstances during December, because it may not be seen as financially viable.
“Like all leagues, having already lost August and now November, we are already worried that we will be facing an end-of-season that puts too much stress on the players,” said Hiscox.
“Or, if we have a bad winter – whether it will be worth finishing the season at all.”
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