I write in response to your letter of Wednesday 10th March.
As your letter is addressed to Ian Maxwell and I, I think it’s prudent to begin by highlighting the collaborative approach which our associations have taken, and continue to take, throughout the pandemic. In late April 2020 , Scottish Football’s Joint Response Group created a number of sub groups to look at all the various element involved with restarting football. The Grassroots sub- group met for the first time in mid- May and was made up of representatives from all of the relevant ANAs and SFA leagues. The SYFA was represented by our National Secretary Florence Witherow, and our vice chairman Tom Anderson, both of whom played active roles in the discussions, objectives, plans and preparations within the group.
It is extremely important to recognise and be aware that both the Joint Response Group and the various representatives from each part of the game, work very closely with The Scottish Government Active Scotland Division and sportscotland. This has been the case from the very start, and please rest assured this is an ongoing process.
You have made reference to ‘provisions made reactively’ in relation to communications from the Scottish FA and SYFA. The SYFA has ensured to provide updates to our members throughout this uncertain and challenging period, however to put it frankly, we cannot provide updates on information which does not yet exist. The pandemic is fast-moving and ever-changing and we must all react, respond and plan based on the currently available government information. The Board and senior management are continually reviewing the safe return to football and the long term impact of lockdown and restrictions, however we must be constantly mindful of the shifting environment in which we are currently living.
We have been in regular discussions with all of our member league representatives, who deliver and administer fixtures. The feedback and input from these volunteers is extremely valuable and plays a huge part in the SYFA’s decisions at a National level. I believe that everyone involved with the SYFA shares the same ultimate goal – the provision of a safe and supportive environment in which young people across Scotland can play football.
We have been in discussions around summer football in 2021 for some time. These discussions have been very positive and we will be doing everything that we can to enable teams to continue playing throughout the year. That is of course assuming the Scottish Government’s route out of lockdown progresses as planned.
However, permitting the season to run into June and July is not a simple process. As mentioned before, our leagues are volunteer-run and we must ensure our approach to summer football in 2021 is in line with volunteer expectations, commitments and capacities. There is also the matter of team insurance cover, which, for the 2020/2021 season, expires on 30th June. It is essential that robust plans are in place before confirming the summer football activity options available to our members.
Another crucial matter is the availability of facilities, which differs greatly between areas; some venues are already with enhanced health and hygiene measure in place, some have already confirmed they will remain open throughout the summer period others have advised it could be much later in the year before they recommence taking bookings. I understand the Giffnock Soccer Centre have access to their own facilities, however would highlight the majority of our membership are not in this position.
In terms of access to facilities in general we have put forward our concerns and we will keep doing this. The Scottish FA are also doing this throughout their platforms at the most senior levels.
Neither the SYFA, nor the Scottish FA have ownership of facilities, and are trying to make the case for them to reopen and stay open as quickly and as safely as possible. We know there are huge challenges being faced by these organisations and this is a complex process in which many factors must be taken into account. As is the case with the return of so many businesses and service providers- patience and understanding are crucial.
The Scottish Youth FA puts the child at the heart of every decision we make: this remains the case during this global health emergency. Please rest assured that we are all working extremely hard to ensure maximum opportunities for children and young people to participate throughout 2021.
Chair Scottish Youth FA.