HUNDREDS of amateur and junior footballers will miss games this weekend and next after Durham County FA cancelled matches in three areas on the Government Covid-19 watchlist.
All football matches due to be played in Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside are cancelled with immediate effect and teams based in those areas must suspend home and away fixtures until the decision is reviewed on Monday, September 21.
Durham County FA Company Secretary John Topping said clubs above Step 6, which is the Northern League Division 2, where games are played in closed grounds can go ahead but the decision may have to be reviewed in future.
He said amateur and junior teams can continue to train, as clubs can control the environment with precautions such as PPE and social distancing.
The move will impact on teams across the region as many play in leagues stretching from the Tyne to the Tees and travel to venues in those areas added to the watchlist, such as the Russell Foster Youth Leagues which are played at Washington Hub.
Mr Topping said: “Last night we stated that health is more important than fixtures and money and we all need to help and support where we can, with this in mind DCFA are looking at issuing the following statement.
“Following the increase in number of reported coronavirus cases which have resulted in Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside being included on the government watchlist.
“Meetings have been held last night and this morning with Sunderland city council and the Sunderland director of public health plus some leagues and other providers.
“We all have to do what we can to help prevent the spread of coronavirus therefore the Durham County FA have decided that all games scheduled to be played in those areas below Step 6 of the National League system and including small sided are cancelled with immediate effect.
“Also, any teams based in those three areas suspend the playing of fixtures whether at home or away until Monday September 21, 2020, when the decision will be reviewed.
“It is expected that no league fines or costs regarding facility hire will be levied.
“With regards to match officials that reside in the three named areas the decision is on an individual basis.
“I apologise for the lateness of this decision but the current situation is changing on a day to day basis.”