FA have ‘let themselves down’ to help grassroots during Covid, believes ladies’ coach

Shaun Harley (right), manager at Whittlesey Athletic Ladies, believes the FA has let grassroots football down during the...

Shaun Harley (right), manager at Whittlesey Athletic Ladies, believes the FA has let grassroots football down during the Covid-19 pandemic and believes more support and clarity is needed. Picture: IAN CARTER - Credit: Archant

The FA have “let themselves down” and should be doing more to support grassroots football during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shaun Harley, manager at Whittlesey Athletic Ladies, believes the FA has let grassroots football down during the Covid-19...

Shaun Harley, manager at Whittlesey Athletic Ladies, believes the FA has let grassroots football down during the Covid-19 pandemic and believes more support and clarity is needed. Picture: IAN CARTER - Credit: Archant

That’s the view of Shaun Harley, manager of Whittlesey Athletic Ladies, who believes more clarity from English football’s governing body should do more for clubs across the amateur game.

“You’ve got the FA saying people can’t go between Tiers 2 and 3, yet teams in Tier 3 can play against each other and somebody from Tier 2 can travel into Tier 3 for work,” he said.

“Ninety per cent of people we’re playing against are travelling into Tier 3 anyway, so what difference does it make? It’s confusing across the board.”

The ladies’ setup, similarly to the men’s first-team before lockdown, reported a Covid-19 outbreak after a player who works in the NHS tested positive.

Shaun Harley, manager at Whittlesey Athletic Ladies, believes the FA has let grassroots football down during the Covid-19...

Shaun Harley, manager at Whittlesey Athletic Ladies, believes the FA has let grassroots football down during the Covid-19 pandemic and believes more support and clarity is needed. Picture: IAN CARTER - Credit: Archant

Some of the younger players were also been sent home from school to self-isolate, too, and the team are not due to restart their Cambridgeshire Women’s County League Premier Division season until the new year.

“It’s had a huge effect on us in terms of being able to play games,” Shaun said.

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“We’ve had a few players throughout the season that have been unable to play for other reasons, but not to this level.”

Another challenge Shaun has faced in the Whittlesey hotseat is the level of care some opposition sides may give to staying as safe as possible.

One incident that resonates in Shaun’s mind is when his team played Fulbourn Institute Bluebirds earlier in the season involving a spectator.

“We assumed she was part of the coaching staff, and she spat in her hands after passing the ball because we asked her not to touch the balls. It caused quite a melee between both benches,” he recalled.

“Fulbourn were fantastic, but it caused me a massive headache because we had so much paperwork to deal with.”

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Some safety measures have become like second nature to Shaun, from sanitising equipment to arriving earlier than usual before matches.

But while he thinks club officials should get more credit for their work off the pitch, there is still more to do to support these clubs on it.

“The FA could allow teams to only train if there are no games until the new year because at least everyone is still getting that exercise they need,” Shaun added.

“At higher levels, it’s evident they’ve had masses of support given that fans are coming back, but the lower levels have been left to fight for themselves.”

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