Reports by the The Times last night indicated that a strict second national lockdown could be on the way during next week.
With Coronavirus cases threatening to spiral out of control and with hospital admissions increasing, there are strong reports that the UK Government could bring in similar restrictions to those last witnessed in the spring.
If implemented, a national lockdown could initially last until the beginning of December but what will this mean for both the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship with some clubs scheduled to play as many as five matches throughout November? FA Women’s Super League Full-Time have considered some of the possible outcomes should restrictions tighten as suggested.
A short suspension
One scenario could be that both competitions are suspended during the lockdown period. If it is implemented, it is thought that the lockdown is likely to be something of an extended ‘circuit break’ lasting around four weeks, meaning that the December league schedules could potentially take place.
A suspension could be enforced by UK Government rules and made compulsory for elite sport or The Football Association could make a decision to temporarily suspend the competitions themselves should elite sport be given permission to continue but is deemed to be too risky in the currently climate. With two clubs having been hit with Covid-19 outbreaks in the last four weeks, a break could offer a chance for some self-isolation or group isolation across the board and hopefully enable the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship to return with a clean bill of health in December.
No change – Both leagues continue under the current restrictions
Despite the UK possibly facing a strict lockdown, the continuation of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship actually feels like the most likely outcome.
As part of the most recently announced lockdowns in France and Germany, elite football has been permitted to continue behind-closed-doors while the likes of the Dutch and Northern Irish leagues can also carry on. Should the UK Government adopt similar lockdown restrictions, the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship could get the green light to continue.
Both the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have regular testing schedules and all parties have worked well together to implement and maintain their respective squad bubbles so far. Players and staff can all take huge credit for the discipline adopted against strict regimes, keeping infection to minimum levels. Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship clubs have led the way in keeping their bubbles safe, recording lower levels of positive tests than their male counterparts. The women’s game feels like a safe environment for all which is arguably capable of continuing if given the go-ahead to do so.
Reduce the number of games
November sees two rounds of FA Women’s Continental League Cup games staged. To reduce player interaction and travel, The Football Association could opt to postpone the fixtures and reschedule for early in 2021 if women’s elite football is given permission to continue. By doing this, it would mean that players would be required to play just two rounds of league fixtures during November in most cases.
Opting for this measure could cause some minor scheduling issues in the New Year with the latter stages of the FA Women’s Continental League Cup almost certain to take place later than in previous years but it would take away some of the immediate risk around regular interaction between players from different bubbles.
Suspend the FA Women’s Championship but allow the Barclays FA Women’s Super League to continue
Despite having some full-time clubs playing in the FA Women’s Championship, there are others who are operating on a part-time basis with players having to balance jobs. Those part-time players are potentially at a greater risk of Covid-19 infection with some of them in public-facing jobs outside of football. There is an increased risk of spreading the illness across team bubbles in the FA Women’s Championship and with Covid-19 infections throughout the UK increasing, this will naturally take it’s toll on the second tier in some form.
Another option for the footballing authorities if the continuation of women’s elite football is given the thumbs up to continue by the UK Government could be to therefore suspend the FA Women’s Championship until the lockdown period has ended but continue with the Barclays FA Women’s Super League given the fact that it is entirely a full-time competition.
Worst-case scenario, providing that the lockdown period was not to be extended, FA Women’s Championship clubs would have up to four games to reschedule in the New Year with some free weekends pencilled in the calendar before the season is set to end.
The UK Government are yet to comment on the reports of a second lockdown, however, an announcement could be made in a little over 48 hours’ time and we will then know more on the potential impact on the women’s elite game during the next month.