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FAI urges caution as Grassroots football returns

The Football Association of Ireland has today written to all Grassroots clubs encouraging adherence to the Safer Return to Training & Play Protocols in light of the current COVID-19 situation and the ongoing impact of the Omicron variant on Irish society.

The FAI has also decided that a number of National Cup competitions will be rescheduled with new dates for fixtures as follows:

FAI Centenary Intermediate Cup – February 20th
FAI Centenary Junior Cup – February 13th
FAI Centenary Youth Cup – February 20th
FAI Centenary Youth Interleague Cup – February 6th
FAI Centenary Under 17 Cup – February 13th

  All FAI Women’s National Competitions are currently scheduled to run as planned.

Ahead of this weekend’s return to action for many Adult Amateur and Underage leagues, the FAI is advising all affiliates that only essential personnel should attend all training sessions and match fixtures. As per the FAI Safer Return to Grassroots Training & Play Protocols, essential personnel include players, coaches, match officials and club officials and volunteers.

Parents, guardians and spectators are asked to attend only if essential circumstances exist.

Any parent or guardian attending a training session or match fixture must strictly observe 2 metres social distancing at all times. Strictly no gatherings of groups while training is ongoing are permitted.

Protocols must be followed throughout the duration of sessions. Spectators are strongly advised to stay away from training sessions and games until further notice

.If the use of dressings rooms are deemed to be absolutely essential, they should be used with strict adherence to 2 metres social distancing, obligatory mask wearing, proper ventilation and the time allowed in the dressing room should be less than 15 minutes. Showers should not be used at this time.

FAI Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne explained: “In light of the current COVID-19 situation and the rapid increase in the number of positive cases due to the Omicron variant, we felt it was necessary to remind all stakeholders of our FAI Safer Return to Grassroots Training & Play Protocols to keep Irish football safe for those who play our games and also for the sake of the wider community.“

As a result, we are now strongly advising clubs to limit access to training and games only to those who are deemed as absolutely essential to these training sessions and fixtures. We are appealing to parents and guardians to drop their children off to these football events and collect them at their conclusion.

We understand how many parents and guardians want to watch their children enjoy their football but we feel this move is an important one for football and for our overall public health environment.”

FAI Grassroots Director Ger McDermott added: “We have spoken with our Grassroots affiliates and with Sport Ireland in reaching these decisions and they are all supportive of this move ahead of the return of Grassroots football this weekend. Football can continue but we must be responsible and realistic in how we deal with the Omicron variant and the rising case numbers across the country.“

“We will continue to liaise with Government and its agencies, with Sport Ireland and with our affiliates and we will review these changes to our FAI Safer Return to Grassroots Training & Play Protocols on an ongoing basis. I want to again acknowledge all our stakeholders for their continuing support for these Protocols and thank them for keeping Irish football safe for all involved with our game.

”The FAI encourage all of our stakeholders to take up the opportunity to receive a vaccine/ booster vaccine to protect one another and our communities. The Association also asks all players, coaches, match officials and volunteers to practise safe personal hygiene to reduce the risk of viral transmission.

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