THE owner of a large football complex is deflated at the latest Government restrictions prohibiting indoor matches.

Just days after apparently being given the green light to reopen the 30,000-sq ft Soccarena, in Durham, for the many local club teams and leagues which previously used the facility prior to lockdown, Austin Carney has had to pull the plug on plans for play to resume indoors.

Having spent a small fortune putting safety measures in place and taking a large number of bookings, Mr Carney’s staff at the leisure venue, part of the Infinite Durham site, on Belmont Industrial Estate, have been ringing customers to cancel bookings, following Tuesday’s latest curbs put in place by the Government to prevent the spread of the virus.

“On Friday we learned almost by accident that the FA guidance said we could reopen for indoor football and now it’s all cancelled, again.

“They have said it’s a maximum of under six people and it’s just not viable.

“That would leave us able to play two v two, with a goalie.

“We’ve been shut for six months with this massive facility, when we’re told we can’t have indoor play, and just when it looked like it was all going to be back up and running, we get this announcement.

“It’s very frustrating. It’s a large indoor expanse, with a massive roof space and we could not have done more to make it safer, measures which have worked next door in the trampoline park.

“This could risk a loss of facilities. I’m not alone here. You are talking about good businesses failing to keep going because they just can’t.”

Mr Carney said they had planned to introduce staggered start times so players entered the arena at different times, with one team off and one team on at a time, on the four six-a-side pitches.

“We rang all our regular customers and bookings were starting to come in.

“Then, half-way through Tuesday, Boris makes his announcement and we have had to ring them all back to cancel.”

Among the bookings were an entire evening block for Middlesbrough FC’s development year teams.

“It’s a huge blow to lose business like this," added Mr Carney.

On the plus side, use of the complex’s neighbouring outdoor pitch can continue, amid the latest FA guidance.

A joint announcement from Durham County and Northumberland FA branches has passed on the latest conditions by which outdoor football can be played safely, from midnight tonight (Thursday September 24).

The statement said: “Durham CFA and Northumberland FA are putting in place further requirements to ensure the game can continue and meet local and national guidelines.

“Following the new Covid-19 regulations and advice issued in the North-East last week, Durham CFA and Northumberland FA have worked closely with their seven partner local authorities to strengthen the requirements and guidance around football and ensure we can continue to keep playing the sport we all love.

“Although it is recommended that spectators do not attend games we have acted to address this position, while keeping participants actively playing football on the pitch wherever we can.

Durham County FA chief executive, John Topping, said: “As we are all aware the North-East of England has been placed under local restrictions following the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, which has mainly arose due to social gatherings.

"These restrictions have impacted on many people and are also having a detrimental effect on their health and well-being.

"Following positive meetings between Durham County FA, Northumberland FA, the Football Association, local authorities and other organisations, we are delighted to announce that a return to football with necessary restrictions in place can commence from Friday September 25.”

The position is scheduled to be reviewed on October 7.