Football

UKAF Football Chairman 'Absolutely Convinced' Sport Will Return In 2021

Non-elite level football in England is being suspended due to the pending four-week lockdown.

The chairman of British military football is "absolutely convinced" representative and UKAF-level football can be delivered next year despite COVID-19.

The month-long lockdown due to start on Thursday has meant the cancellation of this year’s Inter Services football championship, as well as the UKAF women’s Remembrance fixture against Chelsea next week.

But the chairman of UKAF Football, Air Commodore Simon Harper, said he has high hopes for a bumper year of football in 2021.

He said: "It wasn’t possible this week and, indeed, this autumn and that’s a great shame.

"I regret that but we have to find a way next year to do it and I’m absolutely convinced that we shall."

Air Cdre Harper said forward planning is now more important than ever, with plans already in place for the under-23 championships in February and the men’s and women’s senior championships in March.

"I’ve been committed to trying to show that we can deliver representative and UKAF level football in a COVID-19 environment because I don’t know how long this is going to take," he said.

"I think it would be very easy for us to say 'no, this is all too difficult or too challenging and we’re not going to do it'.

"But my players, my coaches, my officials are incredibly professional, committed people who want to play and participate in football and sports across defence more generally, but we need to find a way to deliver it."

The start of a new lockdown meant the cancellation of the Inter Services tournament's final fixtures.

Air Cdre Harper stressed everything had been done to try to complete the Inter Services but it was becoming "increasingly difficult" with the new coronavirus restrictions. 

"All three services in UKAF agreed that if we couldn’t complete all the fixtures then we shouldn’t complete the Inter Services tournament," he said.

"And I think that’s the right decision, actually, given the challenge that we have with COVID-19 not just for the English national lockdown, but already, of course, we have the firebreak in Wales, we have Northern Ireland having their own conditions and Scotland with their tier system.

"It was becoming increasingly difficult for us to gather those teams together."

He added: "I think what was more fundamental is that defence has a core role to protect its vital output, whatever that may be.

"The Army and the Navy and the Royal Air Force have their vital outputs which they must protect but which our players, coaches, and officials ultimately deliver."