On the day the regulations surrounding social distancing changed as Covid 19 cases soar in the UK, shocking footage has emerged of a Tamworth Borough Council sanctioned 6 a side football league flouting regulations – potentially placing hundreds of people in severe danger of the killer disease.
Last week we reported that leagues in South Staffordshire were essentially ignoring Coronavirus guidelines and were operating at council venues in the town when they were not Covid secure.
Now, secretly filmed video that we have obtained shows that despite the one way system on the entrance to pitches (pictured above), once on the taxpayer funded surface there were:
-Players paying in cash
-Spectators going in unchecked to watch the games.
-Players shaking hands.
Commenting on the footage (stills of which you can see below) Leisure Leagues’ Andy Thorley, said: “My overriding emotion is anger. We spoke to the Tamworth Council Leader, Daniel Cook, on Friday evening and tried to tell him this was the situation at the unregulated leagues. He refused to speak to us.”
Referee’s take cash from players
His attitude, which Andy described as “blasé and contemptuous” has been thrown into sharper focus today with regulated sport being exempt from the so-called “Rule Of Six” – banning groups of more than six people meeting which has been enshrined in law. Andy said: “It’s up to us all to be vigilant. We all want community football to carry on, because we know how important it is, but the reckless actions of Tamworth Council and the organisations involved must not be allowed to affect us all moving forward.”
From the 15th September, Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell is subject to a local lockdown which bans people from meeting in each other’s houses. Despite neighbouring the localities, Tamworth and wider Staffordshire is unaffected by this, and Andy questioned if Tamworth Council is taking its responsibilities seriously enough: “You have to wonder if they are even aware of the risk these unregulated and unchecked competitions are posing to the wider community. Never mind just the people playing in the leagues.”
Players shaking hands
Leisure Leagues have undertaken more work than any other provider to ensure that their leagues were Covid safe. This has included new regulations, such as players not being allowed within two metres of the match officials, a “no bibs” rule making sure players all wore their own kit, no shaking hands and spectators banned. In addition, the firm – with leagues in places as far afield as Pakistan and the US as well as Britain – has made a huge investment in its website to make sure that games could be paid for by card.
Andy explained why they had made such a huge outlay on infrastructure: “It wasn’t easy for us to do during lockdown, with no leagues running, but it was vital that we did. It is well known how dangerous handling cash is in terms of spreading the virus. It was important to protect the referees, players and the wider communities in the places where we are proud to bring vital fitness and camaraderie. That is why we are so upset to see this situation in these Leagues in Tamworth.”
To make matters worse, Leisure Leagues had offered to give their guidelines to the council sanctioned leagues in the town, in order to make them safe after rumours had first emerged of their danger, but had been met with a wall of silence from the Conservative led administration: “It’s always the case with Tamworth Council it seems,” said Andy ruefully. “We are used to them being uncooperative and disengaged, but now they are being cavalier with public health to boot.”
Spectators allowed to watch unchecked
It is not too late for the at risk 6 a side players, though, as Andy said: “We remain ready to work with Tamworth Council on making the leagues in the area safe. We don’t expect to get a call from them, but we are here, ready. We also hope that all of the players in the league we witnessed yesterday remain healthy and don’t contract this terrible disease just because they wanted a game of football – it is not their fault the leagues are unsafe, after all. We keep our fingers crossed and that, really, is the best we can do at this moment.”Back to Blog