Community football team fear losing facilities over Covid-breaching crowds

A team playing football

Play in progress at Waterloo Park in Norwich - Credit: Matt Colley

Two brothers who set up their own community football team during the pandemic fear they could lose its facilities due to large groups gathering and breaking lockdown rules. 

Ewan Martin and Joe Mazzei came up with the idea of the team in Norwich after the first lockdown as a way to help local people stay mentally and physically fit.

Community football team Waterloo Park United was set up during the pandemic 

Community football team Waterloo Park United was set up during the pandemic as a way to help local people stay mentally and physically fit. - Credit: Ewan Martin

The first session took place in Waterloo Park on August 28, with 11 people present, but momentum soon began to build.

After posting an appeal on Facebook for local players to join them they were inundated with people wanting to sign up to Waterloo United FC

But the team’s pitch has also become a draw for large groups of people in breach of the coronavirus guidelines.

Waterloo United co-founder Ewan Martin

Waterloo United co-founder Ewan Martin - Credit: Matt Colley

Ewan said: “We have had big groups which are obviously not in Covid guidelines and there has been a bit of backlash.

“The council contacted us to see if we had anything to do with it. They are playing football but it has nothing to do with us and it is the amount of people that’s the issue. 

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“There were probably two groups of 10 or more recently and that is before the guidelines where six people could meet.”

Joe Mazzeil and Matt Bailey setting up a gazebo in Waterloo Park

Joe Mazzeil (left) and Matt Bailey (right) setting up in Waterloo Park. - Credit: Matt Colley

To help the team, Norwich City Council marked out a pitch on the smaller field in the park, while local community charity, Catton Grove Big Local, also reached to offer their support.

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Their grant application led to the club being offered more than £1,000 in funding, which enabled them to purchase full-size goals and nets for the council to install.

However the brothers fear that if people continue to illegally gather they might be forced to remove the facilities, just as organised outdoor sports have been allowed to resume in the latest lockdown easing.

Waterloo United FC

Waterloo United FC has had help from Norwich City Council and local community charity, Catton Grove Big Local. - Credit: Submitted

“We really don’t want to risk having anything taken away or the council stopping maintaining the pitch,” said Ewan. 

“I don’t want to think they’d take the goals down but it could happen if there is uproar over people continuing to play on the pitch.”

Waterloo Park, Norwich.Picture: Nick Butcher

The team's pitch at Waterloo Park has drawn crowds in breach of coronavirus restrictions. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The team hopes to restart weekly training sessions. Before lockdown the team’s popularity had grown so big that they are now hoping to enter a team into a local league next season.

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