Most of Swindon’s amateur grassroots football scene is set to burst back into action in April with the majority of leagues expected to resume in some capacity.
While the Southern and Hellenic Leagues have had their seasons brought to an abrupt end, all leagues below step six have been left to make their own decision on whether to continue their seasons or not.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown has now opened the door for grassroots sport beneath step six of the football pyramid to resume on April 3rd.
The Wiltshire Football Association have also confirmed that the 2020-21 grassroots season has been extended until the end of June.
To date, the Swindon Sunday League and North Wilts Youth Football League, have confirmed that play is set to resume in April however the Swindon & District League and Wiltshire League have decided to null and void their season in favour of a cup competition with the majority of the teams choosing to enter. The Corsham Print Wiltshire Senior League has also confirmed that it is their intention that their Under 18 and Vets competitions will also resume.
Meanwhile the South West Women’s National League and Wiltshire County Women’s & Girls’ League are still to decide their fate with the former confirming they will make an announcement on March 15th.
Confirming the current situation, the Wiltshire Football Association posted the following statement on their website: “We welcome the UK Government’s update today regarding the Covid-19 roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions which means we can look forward to the safe return of grassroots football from 29 March for both adults and children.
“With this new clarity around timings, we will continue to work with Government on plans for a safe return for grassroots football across England and will communicate updated guidance as soon as we can.
“We can also confirm that the 2020/21 grassroots season has been extended until the end of June in order to provide additional flexibility and time for leagues to complete their fixtures this season if they wish to do so.”
Clive Archer, of the Swindon Sunday League, posted on Facebook: “The Swindon Sunday Football League clubs have voted to complete the current season along with the completion of the Knockout Cup and Chairman’s Trophy.
“100 per cent of teams responded to ballet with 90 per cent voting to complete Season. Fixtures have been uploaded to Full-Time commencing on Sunday, April 4th. Let’s hope Covid allows, pitches stay available & sun shines to allow us to finish.”
Mark Smedley, of the Wiltshire Senior League, added: “Whilst the FA have confirmed we could extend the league season if we wanted, our Premier Division clubs were not in favour of this when voting on Season 20-21 options. The League Committee meet next week to discuss this & the arranging of a cup competition to be played in April & May.
“The intention is that both the Under 18 and Vets Division league seasons will continue based on the feedback received from clubs. This will again be discussed at the meeting next week.
“The final agreed position will be confirmed to all clubs following next week’s meeting.”
League secretary of the North Wilts Youth League, Craig Gorton sent us the following statement: “It’s the NWYFL goal to play as much football as we can between the restart date and the end of the season in May.
“The League Management Committee are working on how this will look in practise and will be communicating details to our member clubs in mid-March.
“As a youth league we have no formal promotion and relegation between our divisions, so although not desirable, we have no need to conclude a season for this reason or employ techniques such as average points per game to complete fixtures.
“It’s a little too soon to be speculating on the 2021-22 season, but we may decide to take a similar approach as we did this season particularly with respect to the League Cup, dedicate the period up until Christmas for League fixtures and then review where we are. If we have not lost any part of the season and future lockdowns look unlikely then we will run the League Cup.”
A statement from the Swindon & District League commented: “The Swindon & District Football League member clubs have voted by a majority to abort this season’s fixtures in favour of a cup competition with up to 20 clubs participating.
“With six clubs deciding to end their season now, most clubs recognise that a cup competition was the best way forward to guarantee that competitive football can be played from the beginning of April, with a final planned for the end of May. The committee will meet again next week to format and discuss the rule requirements.
“This means the 2020-21 season results will be null and void.”