A FOOTBALL pitch has been locked up after players were told they must only play a maximum of three-a-side matches.

The footballers who were told to stop their six-a-side informal game were confused when across Blackburn authorised league 11-a-side football games were taking place with little or no social distancing between supporters.

Blackburn with Darwen Council said unauthorised games would not be permitted and police would take action. But the decision to lock up local pitches has left teenagers frustrated and angry.

A video circulating on social media showed two six-a-side teams at the Bangor Street pitch being told by an enforcement officer that they must spilt up and play three vs three on separate sides of the pitch. The pitch was later locked up by the council. A sign said: “Due to the coronavirus situation and for the safety of all residents this facility is now closed until further notice.”

The pitch in Little Harwood next to St Stephen’s Primary School was also locked. But on Sunday the lock had been broken with teenagers playing seven-a-side.

On Friday night 11-a-side football was being played at the council-run Witton Park artificial turf pitch with players travelling in from Preston. The car park was so full that vehicles were parked along the path and the verge leading up to the venue.

Supporters were being told they could not stand inside the gated area but groups were standing on the embankment watching the games take place. Only substitutes and officials were permitted next to the pitch.

As the amateur football season got underway at Pleasington Playing Fields, supporters were seen not social distancing at many of the games and at one game invaded the pitch to celebrate an equaliser with players.

Eighteen-year-old Adil said closing the pitch at Bangor Street based no sense when the same players were turning out to play. He said: “This is the only exercise young people are getting.

“We play with the same set of friends and do they expect people to play three-a-side football?

“We have organised football and there is far more mixing going on between players from different areas and towns. What’s worse these local games with the same players or people from different towns mixing?”

Official FA guidance says ‘organised indoor sport and indoor exercise classes for adults can continue to take place with larger numbers present, provided groups of more than six do not mix (i.e. a maximum of three v three matches can be played indoors). If groups of six are likely to mix, these indoor activities must not go ahead.

It adds: “There are exemptions for organised indoor team sports for disabled people and also for children.”

With regards to supporters the advice says: “It is imperative that all spectators maintain social distancing and government restrictions are always followed.

"For absolute clarity, spectators must remain socially distanced, in discrete groups of no more than six, and these groups must not mix under any circumstances.”

A council spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, we are aware that unauthorised games are still going ahead, which are clearly against current regulations.

“When we have been informed of these we have notified the police through our civil contingencies procedures.

“We would urge people not to meet up for unauthorised games while restrictions are in place and to follow the rules and guidelines for all sports.”