GiveToLocal: Are American footballers now able to play in all settings?
British American Football Association: As it stands, we're pleased to say that American football activity for both our flag and contact disciplines can return for all age groups across England. In Wales, children have been able to resume activity and in Scotland limited non-contact activity is permitted. We hope all members in all home nations of the UK will be able to return to normal practice activity, and then competition, over the coming weeks and months.
GiveToLocal: How safe will it be for players to return to action?
BAFA: We've created a detailed Return to Play pathway for both our flag and contact disciplines and separate guidelines are available for England, Scotland and Wales to reflect the different timelines and rules in each of the nations. We have worked closely with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and each of the home nations sports councils, to make sure that our guidelines reflect all of their recommendations and are designed to mitigate the risk of transmission for our participating members. In addition, all of our clubs have had to submit a detailed risk assessment for their planned activities, which must be regularly updated. They are also required to nominate a Club Covid-19 Officer who has to complete the Sport England /CIMSPA ReActivate Covid-19 Awareness Award. This is an industry recognised award that is available free of charge to all BAFA clubs. It’s designed to ensure that BAFA club volunteers are suitably trained to deliver their roles in the safest possible way for themselves and for participants.
GiveToLocal: How much of a challenge has it been for BAFA to prepare for a return to sport following a year of unprecedented disruption?
BAFA: It's been a huge challenge and we've had to react swiftly to constantly changing situations, as well as adapt our activity to meet the requirements of different regulations and timescales in the three different UK nations. In many instances, this has required planning for a whole host of different potential scenarios, timings and restrictions. Thanks to the amazing dedication and determination of our volunteer workforce, we've been able to adapt quickly and enable our members to return to the sport we all love wherever and whenever possible.
GiveToLocal: How much enthusiasm is there for a return to American football across the country?
BAFA: Players and clubs, as you can imagine, are incredibly keen to play the sport we all love. As the National Governing Body for American football, we have put in place a clear pathway to allow our members to return to activity in a safe and sustainable way.
GiveToLocal: How have you been communicating with BAFA members during the last 12 months?
BAFA: We've been sharing regular updates from our CEO Pete Ackerley to all members via our website and social media. Those who manage each of our different competitions have also been engaging regularly with representatives from our clubs to share news and get their input into our planning. This two-way dialogue has been hugely important as we've navigated through this extremely challenging period.
GiveToLocal: Can you describe some of the toughest challenges your members have faced during the last 12 months?
BAFA: The pandemic has touched all of us in some way and our members are no exception — some have faced personal loss due to the death of a loved one or financial hardship due to a change in their employment status. For many others, the pandemic has meant isolation and struggles with mental health. We hope the return of organised sport and activity, including American football, will help boost mental and physical health and wellbeing. At a club level, many of our affiliated clubs also now face challenges accessing facilities and increased costs, while contending with a drop in income, which is where GiveToLocal can really help.
GiveToLocal: How can an organisation like GiveToLocal support American football clubs and their members to look forward to a bright future?
BAFA: By working with GiveToLocal, our clubs can more easily connect with the their local community and local businesses to help raise their profile and secure vital funding to help support them through these challenging times.
GiveToLocal: Is the future bright for American football in the UK?
BAFA: Absolutely. We have a 10-year vision to professionalise British American football and inspire people to play the game. We are putting in place the building blocks to create a high performing National Governing Body, establish strong partnerships with key partners, good governance and a sustainable financial position for the organisation. We have made significant progress on these aims despite the challenges of the pandemic and recently our partnership with the Canadian Football League (CFL) saw British players drafted into professional Canadian teams. Alongside our work with the National Football League (NFL), we are creating a clear pathway for British athletes to play the sport professionally. Flag football is also growing and excitingly will be included in the 2022 World Games for the first time.