Good Afternoon New Hampshire Soccer Association,
It is now peak soccer season. The leaves have changed and begun to fall, the air is cool, the morning brings frost-covered lawns, and each game that gets played brings a team a little sense of normal. We as a community have gone through some extraordinary times since the beginning of this pandemic and at least we have found a way to still play soccer here in the beautiful State of New Hampshire.
However, I say that cautiously. The State of New Hampshire has been and continues to have one of the lowest infection rates of COVID-19 in the country. We would like to see it stay that way and allow for all, children & adults, to continue to play this beautiful game.
Earlier this year, the New Hampshire Soccer Association (NHSA) released Return-to-Play Protocols with additional information to further the State of New Hampshire’s Safer at Home Guidance. When we first returned to the field and teams began to play, the overwhelming support and acceptance of these protocols were understood and acted upon.
In many cases, the creative thinking and optimistic approach to fulfilling the obligations and requirements within these guidelines were refreshing and inspiring! Clubs were going above and beyond the minimum standards to keep their players, staff, families, and community safe.
Unfortunately, we have been seeing, and hearing about, clubs taking a step back, relaxing, and not being as vigilant as they were when we first came back to playing games. This is an area of great concern. We would not want to lose our ability to play this beautiful game because of the actions of a few.
We have seen in the past few days alone multiple school districts being forced to go to full remote learning because communities have seen increases in COVID cases. Ice Skating rinks have been forced to close for two weeks due to COVID, even when plans were in place to minimize this risk. We DO NOT want this to happen to soccer.
Please take the time to take a step back and reassess the way the last few weeks have been in your town. Are you doing the right things to keep everyone who comes to your games safe?
The following are just some of the expectations for everyone participating in soccer games in the State of New Hampshire under NHSA, based on our interpretation of NHSA Protocols & NH Guidance:
- Any person not ACTIVELY playing in the game is wearing a mask.
- Coaches are to ALWAYS be wearing a mask while participating (includes pre- & post-game)
- Substitutes are to be wearing a mask when on the bench
- Spectators (not from the same household), are to be spaced physical distant when watching their participants play
- Spectators are to provide extra space away from the touchline to remain physically distant from match officials working their games.
- Spectators are to be wearing masks while at their matches
- Match officials are always to be wearing masks, except when ACTIVELY officiating the match in which they are assigned to.
- Bench areas are to be cleaned and sanitized by the host site prior to every match.
We ask that you take the time to do an assessment of your club, team, or association regarding their operating procedures. These are the minimum expectations set for the membership of NHSA. These expectations allow us to ensure we are within the States Guidelines so we can continue to operate.
As a reminder, the match officials, can and will, abandon matches because they are witnessing clubs, teams, coaches, not following these simple guidelines. The New Hampshire Soccer League will consider games abandoned due to refusal to follow these protocols and guidelines as a “forfeit”. Due to this, per the NHSL League guidelines, each forfeit will incur a $300 fine.
Please help us be vigilant and allow this beautiful game to continue to be played here in New Hampshire. We understand that this may be seen as an inconvenience for some, but for the sake of the game, we must keep our standards high and our expectations in check. The last thing we want to see is that the game be unavailable to all because of a few.
Thank you for your time and continued support of the game. We know that everyone is facing different challenges and that each of our members has their own standards they must meet as well. We simply are requiring that these simple requests be met and that all members understand what is at stake, as well as the consequences, for not maintaining the appropriate level of care to the standards.
For the Good of the Game,
Vice President, Youth Competitive Soccer
New Hampshire Soccer Association
CC: NHSA Membership
CC: NHSL Registered Referees
CC: NHSA Executive Board
CC: NHSL League Director