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The latest message from chief executive Pete Ackerley on the return to play guidance as England enters new phase of easing lockdown restrictions!

I have a few updates on return to play across our home nations that I want to share with you, as well as an updated ‘frequently asked questions’ list and a very important reminder of some Covid-19 compliance requirements.


Important Covid-19 compliance requirements

While we want as many of you to be able to return to activity as soon as possible, I want to remind you that it is also vitally important that this is done safely and within our return to play guidelines.

That our clubs comply with our approved guidelines is the condition under which our sport is permitted by the UK Government to exceed current legal social gathering limits. Clubs who do not comply with these requirements are not only breaking our guidelines, but risking that permission being withdrawn for our whole sport.

We have been made aware of teams returning to practice without Covid-19 protocols in place, without registered players or coaches, club Covid-19 officers or risk assessments in place. We know how excited everyone is to return to activity, and while we don’t want to have to resort to disciplinary measures, we will be taking breaches of our guidance very seriously and taking action where required.

We appreciate your support in ensuring your club follows our guidance and gets any missing requirements in place as soon as possible.

England update

We have now updated our Stage 4 and Stage 5 guidance for England to reflect changes in UK Government rules on cross-border travel. Participants normally resident in Wales and who are currently registered with a club in England may now cross the border to participate in American football activity.

We have also made a number of other small updates to clarify wording on spectators and what constitutes a household, as well as adding information on equipment sharing. In addition, in response to queries, we have also added an appendix to the contact guidelines on safe equipment fitting. A table of amendments is included in our updated guides to make it easy for you to see what’s been changed.

Please make sure you read the updated version of the guidelines for your format of football.

Scotland update

In Scotland, with immediate effect under 18s no longer have to 2m physically distance from one another when active in a ‘field of play bubble’ for practice. However, maximum groups of 15 participants will remain in force for all those over the age of 12 until at least 26 April when Scotland is due to move to Level 3 restrictions. We have updated our levels activity overview infographic and current Stage 4 guidance for Scotland to reflect this.

As of 26 April we anticipate maximum groups will be able to increase to 30 once again for all ages. We also anticipate that on this date, pending sportscotland sign off, contact teams for under 18s will be able to commence modified contact practice.  Those aged 18 and over have a little longer to wait, with the return of ‘field of play bubbles’ for over 18s still on track for 17 May onwards.

Wales update

Organised sporting activity for children can now resume in Wales, and updated guidance for Stage 5 modified contact for U18s is now available to support this.  Organised adult sport can return in group of up to 30 from 26 April, and we will share updated Stage 4 and Stage 5 guidance for adults ahead of this.


Covid- 19 Frequently asked questions

How do we fit playing equipment in a Covid-19 secure way?

We have worked with BAFCA to create guidelines to manage this safely. These can be found as standalone guidelines here and are now included as an appendix in our updated Stage 4 and Stage 5 guidelines for England and will be included in all guidance for other nations going forward.

I live in Wales, and my club is in England – can I travel to practice now?

Yes – as long as you are currently registered with a club in England you may now travel cross-border to participate in activity within England.

Can my team in Wales travel to England to practice – either with another club or by booking a pitch in England?

At the moment adult organised sport is not permitted in Wales until at least 26 April. As a National Governing Body of Sport, we cannot condone looking for loopholes that go against the spirit of the rules, and we request our clubs in Wales remain patient until 26 April when they can resume organised activity.

When will schedules be confirmed?

Schedules for some formats of football have already been issued. Others will follow as soon as possible. We are still finalising some groups for adult contact and U16/U19 contact formats, for example. Once these have been confirmed our commission leads will contact clubs directly to confirm.

What is happening with fees? Will there be refunds, and what about coaches?

The fees as they currently stand for 2021 remain unchanged from 2019 and 2020 and are available on the BAFA website here. However, as previously communicated, we are reviewing these fees once we have finalised competition groupings and will look to see where it may be appropriate to adjust fees for this year. This will be looked at on a competition-by-competition basis, and also take regional differences into account where appropriate.

I’ve already bought a membership – if the fees change will I lose out?

No. Should any fees be adjusted, members who have already purchased a playing or coaching membership for this season will receive a partial refund that reflects any adjustment in fees.

What about coaches – will they receive any refunds this time?

Yes – if competition fees are adjusted and refunds made, this will also be reflected for coaching fees where appropriate too.

Should I wait to see if fees change before registering with BAFA?

No – in order to participate in American football activity, you must be registered with BAFA. If there is any adjustment to fees agreed, you will receive a partial refund.  Please make sure you are registered before returning to practice.

My membership says it expires on 30 September, but I’ve been advised my format’s competition will still be underway after this point. Will I need to register again?

No – all memberships and team memberships will be extended to 31 October to take this into account. Playing memberships for women’s adult contact competitions will also be extended into November to reflect their slightly later playing calendar.

For modified contact, do we need to split into groups of 6+1 coach throughout?

No – you only need to do this for the elements of your practice where you are undertaking contact activity. However, you must not exceed the maximum number of participants per pitch area as detailed in our guidance for your format and nation.

Will there be changes to how we organise games this year to make them safer?

We will share game and tournament management guidance as part of our Stage 6 Return to Play guidelines. These will reflect current home nation government requirements in place at the time.

Should BAFA clubs be using lateral flow testing?

At the moment lateral flow testing is not a requirement at grassroots sports level. This is not something mandated or suggested by the DCMS, nor something we are requiring or recommending as an NGB currently. This is not only due to the additional cost it would impose on clubs but because clubs should be following our detailed mitigations to minimise risk of transmission instead. Should clubs wish to conduct independent lateral flow testing in addition to following our required mitigations, we recommend you engage with your local public heath team on best practice first and to see if any government supported schemes are available in your region.

Will BAFA introduce a requirement to be vaccinated?

At the moment no approach has been agreed or communicated on ‘vaccination passports’ at government level. BAFA will continue to review the situation, and should this become a recommendation for grassrooots sport, we will communicate any requirements to members. We think this is very unlikely at this stage however.

Do we have to monitor car sharing?

Car sharing is currently not recommended in England, Scotland or Wales. While you don’t need to monitor it, you should not advocate this as a club or as a solution for team travel. Please encourage people to follow the safe travel guidance for your home nation.


For the latest on return to play and all things BAFA, follow Gridiron Hub!

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