Firstly, and most importantly, I hope everyone in British American football is staying safe and well.
In my last update, on 9 April, I said that we wanted to consult with our community on how we might return to playing action and to find the best possible solutions for British American football in these unprecedented times. I sincerely thank everyone who has shared their feedback and thoughts.
Having listened to your views, assessed the latest advice
from the Government and reviewed all the options on the table, we have made a
decision to cancel the contact season across adult, junior and youth. In
addition, the Diamond Series will be postponed until 2021.
I mentioned previously that we were looking at a potential
start date for the season of mid-July. Feedback from teams and coaches is that
a minimum of a six-week pre-season will be required before any competitive
action can take place, meaning a go-ahead decision is needed in early/mid-May.
Given the latest update we have received from the Government, we are simply not
in a position to make this go-ahead decision for a mid-July start to the season.
And the overwhelming feedback from the teams is that, in this scenario, they
would prefer the certainty and clarity of the season being cancelled.
This is why we have taken this decision even though we all,
of course, want to see contact football played in 2020. We have tried to give
it every chance we can, but once logistical challenges such as transport,
venues and medical cover are also factored in, it’s become clear that it’s just
Teams have said they would be keen to potentially play
friendly fixtures later in the year, if this is possible, and this is something
we will absolutely support if public health guidelines allow for it. We will
keep this situation under constant review and confirm as/when training and friendly
games can take place.
The situation for flag football is slightly different. Flag
football clearly has fewer logistical challenges than contact, and the same
duration of pre-season is not required before competitive action can start.
The feedback from our flag teams is that they would like to
give the season every possible opportunity to take place. Therefore, we are
keeping the option open for an adult flag season to start in August, and youth
and cadet seasons to start in September. Of course, this will be completely
subject to Government advice allowing for this.
We will keep the situation under review and flag seasons may
have to start at short notice – but the view from the flag community is that
they would rather take this chance than call off the season now.
We are expecting to receive updated guidance from the
Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) on recreational sporting
activity shortly and once we have reviewed this, we will make a further
announcement on a plan for return to play – in terms of both practice and the
potential flag season.
I understand, given the updates above, there will be
questions about membership and fees. I can confirm today that the majority of
our contact members will receive a partial refund of their 2019-20 membership
fee over the coming weeks. There is further detail on this in the Q&A
document which I reference below.
For flag players, we will keep the situation with membership
fees on hold for the time being until we have a clear picture on the outcome of
Like many other National Governing Bodies for sport, we are
facing considerable challenges at the moment and I hope you can appreciate that
we need to remain sustainable and ready to deliver football as and when the
time comes. There are also significant operational costs of running a National
Governing Body that will continue over the coming months, even though we will
not have a competitive contact season.
Work on core priorities, such as developing all formats of
the game, creating the long term sustainable future strategy of the sport,
building commercial and public funding partnerships, and implementing a new
digital communications and branding strategy, will carry on as normal.
Membership fees contribute towards these operational costs in addition to the
organisation and running of the competitive season.
There is a lot to take in here, and I appreciate you may
have further questions. You will find attached a Q&A document that has been
prepared to try and answer your queries. I hope this is useful and provides
additional detail where required. If there are still areas which you’re unsure about,
please do contact me or BAFA Operations Manager Clive Dobbin.
I would like to end by saying that all of the decisions
outlined above have been taken with your best interests and safety at heart,
and after listening closely to your views. We asked what you thought as a
community and have responded accordingly, with decisions underpinned by
practicality and the advice we are being given by the Government.
This is an extremely difficult situation for us all, and it
goes without saying that BAFA passionately wants to see football played, and we
will do everything we can to help organise practices, friendlies and flag tournaments
as and when this is possible. We are extending the season until the end of
October to provide as much opportunity as we can to allow some playing action
to take place.
This is a challenge both individually and also as the
National Governing Body. We are working on a number of projects currently with
key partners to identify and create further resources into our game to support
both individual participants and the sport as a whole. I will keep you informed
with developments as they progress.
We must focus on protecting the long-term future and
integrity of our sport so that we can successfully overcome this unprecedented
period. As we continue to do this, I hugely appreciate your patience,
understanding and passion – and I urge everyone to stay safe, remain healthy,
and support each other and our mental health.
Pete Ackerley, BAFA Chief Executive