How has COVID-19 effected grassroots clubs? Park Life Sport talk to Collumpton Youth manager Kevin Williams

As COVID-19 continues to dominate the headlines across the entire sporting spectrum, many professional based clubs are still being left in limbo as to whether their retrospective seasons will be continued in the weeks to come, or abandoned completely, ultimately voiding the campaign.

UEFA and the FA have been unclear to date in terms of how to deal with the outbreak of the virus, with various top divisions across Europe demonstrating different circumstances to come to terms with recent government guidelines.

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The current UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said the organisation could lose ‘millions and millions’ from the coronavirus pandemic.

This has seen major leagues such as the Dutch Eredivisie and French Ligue 1 and 2 come to the decision to abandon their seasons completely. Whereas in Belgium, the Pro League has decided to finish the season as the table stood, declaring Club Brugge champions of the division.

This weekend saw the return of the German Bundesliga, where eight encounters were played behind closed doors and followed strict social distancing guidelines. These involved players sitting away from each other on the bench, alongside wearing face masks when off the field.

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And for one club in particular, the COVID-19 outbreak has seen the near extinction of the club, which was established just after the second world war in 1945.

Collumpton Youth and manager Kevin Williams, 52, have come into recent financial troubles due to the MACRON Devon and Exeter Youth Division being declared on furlough, therefore being unable to provide the clubs with the sufficient funding they need.

Williams describes the situation as “mentally challenging” as he prepares to deal with continuous concerns as the future of the club is in unprecedented turmoil.

The Exeter born 52-year-old says: “For me, as a manager, it is not nice to see our season end abruptly. What is even more concerning is that I’m not sure when this will all come to an end, nobody knows.”

“The kids (players) are always asking me questions about the future of the club, and the truth is, I’m not sure where I stand in terms of next season. Of course, I still want to be here, but if the club needs to take cuts in order to continue, then I will do all I can.”

Alongside the postponement of Euro 2020, now taking place in the summer of 2021, all lower leagues across the whole of Europe have been cancelled and voided, including the likes of these local sports clubs in county based qualifying divisions.

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UEFA today announced the postponement of its flagship national team competition, UEFA EURO 2020, due to be played in June and July this year. ⁣ ⁣ The health of all those involved in the game is the priority, as well as to avoid placing any unnecessary pressure on national public services involved in staging matches. The move will help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the COVID-19 emergency, to be completed.⁣ ⁣ All UEFA competitions and matches (including friendlies) for clubs and national teams for both men and women have been put on hold until further notice. The UEFA EURO 2020 Play-off matches and international friendlies, scheduled for the end of March, will now be played in the international window at the start of June, subject to a review of the situation.⁣ ⁣ Full statement 👉 Link in bio

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The FA released a statement on March 26th to put an end to all grassroots football seasons, stating: ‘all decisions taken are in the best interests of the game’ stating that their primary concern ‘will always be for the safety and welfare of clubs, players, staff, officials, volunteers and supporters during this unprecedented time.’

Although it may seem strange to see football be played with such strict demands, in the weeks to come, La Liga, Serie A and the Premier League will look to follow in the footsteps of the Bundesliga and replicate these playing conditions according to their own government guidelines.

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The Jeonju World Cup Stadium showed off this powerful message in the South Korean K-League football match between Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Suwon Samsung Bluewings in May.

With club administration looking to be on the horizon for Collumtpon FC Youth, Williams has stressed that his side won’t be dampened by the situation.

He said:

“Everyone involved in the club is struggling to come to terms with the situation, and I’m sure it’s the same for other clubs. Everyone who has put their own money into the club, the sponsorships, fans, officials…they’re all important in terms of how the club is run.”

 “But the foundations of the club stretch back centuries, all the way to the second world war, so to see it come to an end would be heartbreaking. This is only my second season as manager of the club, and it already feels like a family.”

“Of course, the players are devastated, but they’re still keeping their heads high in hope for next season. Let’s just hope for the best.”

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