Junior football teams are postponing their post-match handshakes as a precaution against coronavirus.
The teams, in the North Staffs Junior Youth League, which is part of Ladsandads, will instead line up to applaud each other at the end of matches.
The decision follows the example of the Scottish FA who have asked footballers, staff and officials not to shake hands to help reduce the spread of the virus. Premier League clubs Newcastle United and West Ham have also banned handshakes at their training grounds.
Ladsandads teams usually line up at the end of matches and shake hands with each opponent – as professional clubs do before games.
The guidance has been issued to clubs by the league’s management committee, who say: “NSJYL have today agreed with immediate effect all NSJYL fixtures will replace the post-match handshakes with a round of applause.
“Please continue to line up and conduct the ‘three cheers’, however, instead of shaking hands, move down the line applauding each other to show respect.
“We would request that you instruct all players, coaches and match officials on the latest advice for the upcoming fixtures until further notice. We are grateful for your co-operation in this matter.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely with guidance from the WHO (World Health Organisation) and the UK government.”
Staffordshire Ladsandads Football chairman Clive Dean told the Sentinel the move was an internal league decision and he hoped the handshakes would return when the virus has receded.
He explained: “We are erring on the side of caution but we don’t want to lose that idea of friendship where players come together and shake hands after a game. So they will still come together and applaud each other so that spirit of friendship remains.
“There can be all sorts of things going on during a game but it gives people the chance to reflect on why players are here – to play football and enjoy themselves.”
Ladsandads is the umbrella organisation which looks after the North Staffs Junior Youth League, for players aged 7-15, and the North Staffs Youth League, for players 15-18.
The organisation is bigger than ever, with 390 teams and around 4,500 players.
Mark Porter chairman of the Kidsgrove branch of Ladsandads said: “It is being pro-active and credit to those who made the decision.
“Sometimes you can’t do right for doing wrong but I think it’s been put in place as a sensible decision to err on the side of caution.
“Also, awareness is key and this helps get the message out there about the importance of washing hands. Also, dialling 111 if you do feel you have symptoms.”
The number of coronavirus cases in the UK has risen to 87.
The government is launching a major public health campaign urging people to regularly wash their hands.
Officials believe, that if there was an epidemic in the UK, up to a fifth of the workforce could be off sick.
NHS advice on how to avoid catching or spreading germs is
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
• put used tissues in the bin immediately
• wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
• try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell