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Statement regarding Skem Utd Chairman's comments in the Champion

8 October 2020

A lot of of you may have seen an article in the West Lancashire Champion newspaper this week, where the Chairman of Skelmersdale United Football Club made some comments that mentioned our league.

Paul Griffiths stated that last week (Sunday 4th October), he had seen more than 300 young people and adults taking part and watching the "Skelmersdale Junior League" at Blaguegate Playing Fields.

Our league didn't have any games take place that day, so we are disappointed that we have been mentioned in the article. The comments have been published without being checked for accuracy or giving us a chance to respond to them first.

Here is the Chairman's quote from the article:

“I drove past Blaguegate on Sunday, and there must have been more than 300 young people and adults taking part and watching the Skelmersdale Junior League. Why can this happen, while we have to play behind closed doors? There needs to be a level playing field here."
Paul Griffiths, Chairman, Skelmersdale United Football Club

The Chairman has specifically mentioned the "Skelmersdale Junior [sic] League", but with our league having NO MATCHES on Blaguegate Playing Fields on Sunday 4th October, any young people or adults he saw were nothing to do with our league.

We wouldn't normally comment or draw attention to this type of thing, but given the current climate of social distancing and the wide circulation of the West Lancashire Champion newspaper (164,000 copies per issue), we feel that we must set the record straight in order to protect the reputation of our league.

  1. Skelmersdale Utd FC play their home matches at the JMO Sports Park. Football that takes place at the JMO Sports Park has nothing to do with the Skelmersdale Junior Football League as we don't play any of our matches at that venue.
  2. The JMO Sports Park is situated next to Blaguegate Playing Fields. No Skelmersdale JFL matches took place at Blaguegate Playing Fields on Sunday 4th October 2020.
  3. The 300 young people and adults the Skem Utd Chairman said he saw on Sunday 4th October had nothing to do with our league. He must be referring to football being played at the JMO Sports Park itself, or in other leagues that play on Blaguegate Playing Fields, both of which had nothing to do with the Skelmersdale JFL on that date, even though he specifically named our league.
  4. It must also be made clear that Blaguegate Playing Fields is a massive field, with enough capacity for up to 10 full size football pitches (even though there are only currently 8 pitches marked out). 300 people on a field of this size wouldn't equate to many people per pitch, and there is lots of room for social distancing there.
  5. This season, our league only has access to 2 out of the 8 pitches at Blaguegate Playing Fields on a Sunday (though none of our games took place on 4th October). Therefore, even if we have 2 matches from our league taking place at the same time (and we usually stagger the fixtures so there's only 1 match at a time taking place there), there would never be that many people from our league at the venue.
  6. Six out of the eight pitches at Blaguegate Playing Fields are used by other leagues and teams, for both adults and children. This has nothing to do with our league, but like we said earlier, it's a massive field with lots of pitches, so there's plenty of room for social distancing.
  7. Our league, as well as other grassroots leagues, have been very active with regards to trying to enforce both the FA and the Council guidelines about social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions.
  8. The FA and the Council set the guidelines for spectators at football matches. They have said that for kids football, 1 adult per child is allowed at matches and this is for safeguarding purposes only, so this is what kids grassroots leagues have implemented in order to be allowed to carry on playing.

The Skelmersdale JFL committee have written to the Chairman of Skelmersdale United Football Club and the Champion to air our views.

We have asked the Chairman to retract the misleading statement that mentioned our league, and for both the Chairman and the editor to make a public apology to our league for the upset and confusion they may have caused.

It is a shame that inaccurate comments may be seen by the local community and give people the wrong impression about what is actually happening in our league.

The Skelmersdale Junior Football League is run by grassroots volunteers and has been running for children in our community since 1972.

We would also like to add that many of our committee members and other people involved with our league are keen supporters of Skelmersdale United FC. We want to see the club do well for the good of our town, and we hope they can prosper at their new home when the authorities relax the spectator rules.