THE cancellation of the 2020 New Balance SFAI Kennedy Cup is a decision that is hugely regrettable, but one that ultimately proved unavoidable for the SFAI. We are genuinely disappointed having to make this decision, but in the over-riding interests of player welfare and all who were scheduled to attend, this is absolutely the correct decision at this point in time.
We are deeply mindful of the huge effort and sacrifices made by players, coaches and parents in the lengthy build-up to what is a highlight of the playing calendar and having to cancel is the last decision we wished to arrive at. We are however living in unprecedented times and the Covid-19 Pandemic has touched the lives of so many people, not just here in Ireland, but globally.
The pandemic has caused the death of over 1500 Irish citizens and over 325,000 globally. These are figures we cannot ignore and the protection and well-being of all has got to be our over-riding priority at this time.
The decision has been taken to ensure protection of all selected SFAI Kennedy Cup participants, along with the referees and also being acutely conscious of the strain our on-site medical staff are under at present, safety comes at the top of all priorities and in the interests of public health we believe this is the only appropriate and responsible course of action.
Likewise, the popular Skechers SFAI National Cups and SFAI SUBWAY Interleague competitions have also suffered as a result of the HSE protocols with regard to travel, assembly and rules applying to social distancing. The combined effect has posed an unsurmountable challenge and these too, sadly, have fallen victim to the same decision to cancel.
As an Executive our first priority has got to be a duty of care to the players under the jurisdiction of the SFAI and cognisant of Government and HSE protocols and the rapidly approaching kick-off to the tournament, we were left with no alternative but to terminate plans for this year’s event.
The current coronavirus (COVID-19) has reached global pandemic levels and we, as an amateur body, have to accept that the situation is out of our control and we have to be guided by the professionals and experts in regard to assembly, social distancing and participation in what is a contact sport.
As an Association entrusted with the promotion of football at underage level here in Ireland, this was the last choice we wished to make. The assembly of players, coaches, parents along with spectators to the University of Limerick – given the current pandemic crisis left us with no alterative in the circumstances.
The SFAI however are constantly reviewing out competitions and while the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with the world sporting calendar, we are also mindful of an improving environment that will lead to easing of restrictions that have impacted on all our lives.
Should the current ‘Phases’ of lifting of restrictions continue in a positive manner, we are also hopeful of the possibility of a ‘window of opportunity’ opening that might facilitate a rescheduling to ensure that this great competition can be completed.
Predicting a return to sport is problematic in these uncertain times but the SFAI Kennedy Cup – along with our sponsors New Balance, the University of Limerick, the host Limerick Schoolboy League and all our participating partners have worked hard to ensure the continued success of this national competition. If the health of the nation improves and allows for a return to action, we will examine all avenues that might allow the 2020 version go ahead at an alternative date.
We are grateful to all the leagues under the SFAI’s jurisdiction for their support in making this decision. We are also grateful to Dr Alan Byrne, the Football Association of Ireland Medical Director, for a pathway for a Return to Football advice and indeed to the national association for their continued support in these difficult times.
Finally, to all the players and their coaches and mentors, who have worked long and hard in preparation for the SFAI Kennedy Cup, we want to thank you for your commitment and loyalty to your leagues and your clubs. Rest assured, if an opportunity to reschedule the event at a later date arises, the SFAI will not be found wanting in ensuring that no stone will be left unturned in trying to achieve that goal.
Football will come through this crisis, but, in the meantime, we have all to do our bit in the interest of health and safety to ensure that happens.