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Coronavirus: March Town chairman Phil White “100 per cent” agrees with football fixture suspension as Covid-19 hits Fenland sport hard – special report

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Coronavirus hit Fenland sporting fixtures hard this weekend.

Grassroots football was suspended by the FA on Monday with other sports also affected.

An FA statement on Monday said: “We have issued a further update regarding the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on football in England.

Wisbech Town FC v Market Drayton FC..Sam Spencer. (31689806)
Wisbech Town FC v Market Drayton FC..Sam Spencer. (31689806)

“Following the Government’s announcement today (Monday), for people to avoid social contact and gatherings where possible, we are now advising that all grassroots football in England is postponed for the foreseeable future.

“Throughout this period, we have taken Government advice with the priority being the health and wellbeing of all. We will continue to work closely with the grassroots game during this time.

“We are in regular communication with the Government and the situation within English football at all levels remains under regular review. Further updates will follow as needed.”

The Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League and local leagues had already begun postponing fixtures last week, joined by the Northern Premier League, to whom Wisbech Town belong, at the beginning of this week.

The postponement is particularly harsh on March Town United, who are chasing promotion from Thurlow Nunn League First Division North and are in two cup finals.

Hares chairman Phil White “100 per cent” agreed with the Thurlow Nunn League’s decision to suspend fixtures as of last weekend, which was made before Monday’s new stricter and more comprehensive Government lockdown measures on public places were announced.

A stoic White said he understood why the call-offs were made on Friday: “Yes, definitely, 100 per cent. They’ve had a couple of cases that have been notified to the Thurlow Nunn League.

“The only thing for me for where we are in our position is we’re in two cup finals. I hope they extend the season or play the finals at the beginning of next season.

“From their point of view, I don’t think they had any choice. I’m surprised, if I’m honest, that the Cambs League hadn’t done the same thing.

“It is frustrating but I can’t condemn anything the league do. I’ve never seen anything like it in my time as chairman but then I’ve never been in two cup finals and a promotion slot.

“We have to take it like everybody else in the league does. Everyone’s health and safety has to come first.

“I think like everybody else I didn’t expect it to get this big, this quickly, and it’s going to get bigger. It’s tricky. Of course it’s frustrating.

“Arran’s (Hares team boss Duke) got the squad into a situation where they’re in two finals and we’ll take them whenever they come, and we’ll see what happens.”

March Town boss Arran Duke said: “Not a lot we can do, it’s out our hands unfortunately.

“But we just have to make sure we are ready for whenever we start back again whilst making sure all players, staff and supporters stay healthy which end of the day is what is most important thing.”

The BetVictor Northern Premier League stated: “All games in the league along with the NPL Academy are suspended until further notice along with the cancellation of the Player Awards evening.”

Clubs such as Chatteris Town FC from the Cambs League had acted ahead of this week’s FA edict, saying: “In line with Government and FA guidelines, CTFC have made the decision to suspend all football until further notice.

“The decision was made with the health and wellbeing of players, parents, spectators and the wider community in mind.”

Wisbech Town Hockey Club press officer Kim Speed said: “At the moment we’re being guided by England Hockey and East League.

“They are advising that matches continue for now and the only stipulation is that no hand shaking takes place, options are to applaud each team or touch sticks in appreciation for match once whistle blows for full time.”

Other sports such as rugby had also introduced social distancing measures.

For example, Wisbech Town Rugby Club youth games this weekend reported using elbow-bumping instead of shaking hands and instructing youngsters about regular hand-washing – see page 57.

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