Jun 25, 2020
Organising
COVID-19

Covid-Secure Grassroots & Casual Football

Professional football is resuming behind-closed-doors and naturally many are wondering when they will be able to have a kickaround with their mates. At FootballMatcher we are eagerly awaiting the green light from the Government to re-activate the games on our platform!

The Big Question

Our mission to get more people playing sport, has never been so important. Many in society are keen to reform old social groups, new-found local friendship groups, and have found a new appreciation of how important exercise is. But the big question is: How do we unlock the physical and mental health benefits of team sport while minimising the risk of spreading infection?

In this blog we discuss a potential path to restarting both grassroots competitive and social football with the help of our COVID-19 features which will mitigate the risk to players and wider society.

Restarting At The Bottom Of The Pyramid Should Be Next

In an interview with the BBC, Dr McCloskey (Formely Public Health Director for London 2012) suggested that a bottom-up approach should be taken when restarting grassroots football. He said:

“The bigger the match, the bigger the competition, the more complicated those mitigating actions will have to be – and therefore the less likely it is that they can be done safely.”

“So, an event that involves lots of travel across the country, or between countries, is much more complicated.”

“A local event – community football is much easier to see how that happens.”

This aligns with governmental strategies around the world to ease lockdown, slowly increasing the size of the bubble people are allowed to have contact with. Logically, the fewer in the bubble involved in a game (players, managers, referees, doctors, medical staff, police) and the fewer miles travelled, the greater the chance the game has of restarting safely. We’re expecting kickarounds wiith the same pool of players in a specific location will be the first type of game to be allowed, followed by smaller competitive fixtures.

Several governments (BBC) are allowing groups of 10 people from different households to meet. If the UK follows this trend, 5-aside games may be possible soon.

Mitigate Against The Risk Of Transmission

But before that can happen, the football industry needs a find an answer to mitigate against the risk of transmission.

FootballMatcher is well placed to address this with the following existing features:

  • Cashless payments: Eliminate cash with 'pay online only’ games, removing the need to handle cash.
  • Player number controls Control the maximum number of players allowed (by pitch size) in accordance with the latest social distancing guidelines.

We also plan to develop other features to reduce the risk of transmission further:

  • COVID-19 safety rules: Develop new game rules which will reduce the risk of contact ( e.g. walking football, no tackling, two touch, request masks are worn ).
  • Bib-less side selection: Remove the need for bib sharing and pitchside team selection discussions by allowing the organiser to assign each side a clothing colour before the game.

Limitations Of Contact Tracing Apps

Additionally, more thought needs to be given to reduce the risk of subsequent transmission when a player contracts COVID-19 within a player bubble or team. The current contact tracing apps offered by the NHS and Apple and Google require a mobile phone to be on for the person to be tracked. Many players leave their mobiles at home or in a locker making these solutions inneffective in pick-up style games where you may not know everyone playing.

Addressing the Limitation

FootballMatcher will aid NHS contact tracing efforts by developing a tool that enables contact tracers to leverage our detailed records of who has played when and with who for every game. We will do this while maintaining player privacy without storing any medical history on our systems nor requiring a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone.

The tool would work like this. The symptomatic player would notify the platform the date their symptoms started. From that date, the platform will dynamically generate a list of names and temporary email address of the players exposed without storing any sensitive medical information in our database. Also, to avoid unnecessarily exposing player contact details, Football Matcher will generate short-lived disposable email addresses that will expire after 21 days. The symptomatic player can then enter these temporary contact details via the NHS contact tracing portal. If the player has little time, they can also share the FM contact tracing link directly to the NHS contact tracer where they can be sent this list via email too. NOTE we will send this list to only official NHS email addresses.

Here is a mockup design of how it will work on our platform:

Step 1: Login and go to your player profile page

Step 2: Go to the COVID-19 tab and click ‘GET PLAYER LIST'’

Step 3: Select the date you contracted COVID-19

Step 4: Enter the player list via NHS contact tracing portal or share FM contact tracing link with contact tracer

Step 5: If the FM contact tracing link is shared, the NHS contact tracer can have the player list sent to their email

A list of all the player names and email addresses will then be sent via email to the contact tracer. They will reach out to the players to advise what to do next. To maintain privacy, FootballMatcher will only send the contact details to official NHS email addresses. Article 6(1)D of the GDPR REGULATIONS allows this use because “processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject or of another natural person”.

Example of contact tracer email showing affected players:

Before You Go: Please Help Us!

We’d love your help to get Football back, please tell us your ideas/feedback in the comments below or email us at:

hello@footballmatcher.io

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