Lisa Wainwright, Chief Executive, The Sports and Recreation Alliance,
Lockdown: 'More sports face collapse without guidance' says shadow sports minister
Tennis and golf officials are among those urging the government to make their sports exempt from new lockdown rules for England.
Shadow sports minister Alison McGovern said “sports face collapse”.
It follows Saturday’s announcement of a new four-week lockdown from Thursday until 2 December to combat rising Covid-19 numbers.
Nine FA Cup first-round ties involving teams from ‘non-elite’ leagues are set to to ahead from 6-9 November.
But the Football Association has said it is awaiting further information on how the wider grassroots game may be affected.
“Yet again sport and physical wellbeing is an afterthought,” Wirral South MP McGovern tweeted..
Meanwhile, the Conservative chairman of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee called for exemptions.
“Today I was in touch with the minister for sport to request that the blanket ban on sports like tennis and golf be lifted,” said Solihull MP Julian Knight.
“Government ought to allow the mixing of one other household in these socially distanced sports.”
McGovern posted her message in response after the FA Women’s National League (FAWNL) said it was waiting on guidance about what the new restrictions meant for its competition.
“The [DCMS] need to answer questions ASAP unless they want more sports to face collapse,” she added.
“And we need to see a cross-government effort on physical and mental wellbeing.”
The Premier League and other elite sports have been told they can continue behind closed doors.
It is not exactly clear how grassroots and amateur sport will be affected.
“We understand people will have a lot of questions and DCMS officials and ministers will be working through these and detailed implications with sectors over the coming days,” said Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary.
Many facilities, including gyms and pools, must close, along with other indoor and outdoor leisure centres.
England Hockey says it is disappointed the new measures will mean no club or community hockey for at least a month.
Under the new restrictions:
- People are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as education and work that cannot be done from home.
- People are allowed to exercise outdoors alone, with their household or with one other person.
The Sports and Recreation Alliance, which represents UK national sports organisations including the FA and Rugby Football Union along with community sport, has warned the new measures may “prove to be the final nail in the coffin for a number of these clubs”.
The Sport for Development Coalition backed calls for more funding from the government as many sporting clubs, charities and local organisations “support mental wellbeing, contribute to tackling social isolation, facilitate community connections and engage young people excluded from education and employment”.
Sport England said there were “difficult days ahead for many in our sector” but that “it is vital we do everything we can to continue to support people to keep active within what is permitted”.
It added: “Sport England already has several live funding packages available to help support grassroots clubs and organisations who have lost vital income this year as well as help them enable people to be active within the rules and we’re working hard with officials in government to help make wider financial support available.”
Swimming pools will also have to close but Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson says she will be “working in partnership with other indoor sports to lobby government”, with meetings scheduled for Monday.
She added: “I am championing our clubs and the health benefits of swimming to the nation as this is a key message to government.”
The Lawn Tennis Association says that, while indoor tennis will be halted, it will “make a case” to the government for outdoor tennis between two individuals from different households to be allowed in line with restrictions on exercise, adding that tennis is a “socially distanced sport with the net acting as a natural barrier”.
People are being asked by the LTA to lobby their local MPs for tennis courts to stay open, allowing for singles and one-to-one coaching, and use by same households.
Golf courses and driving ranges have also been told to close but England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson says it will “respectfully challenge the government’s rationale” over the decision.
“It is our sincere belief that it is now counter-productive to shut down a healthy pursuit which naturally lends itself to social distancing and is played in a Covid-secure manner in the open air,” said Tomlinson in a letter of the England Golf website.
Meanwhile, 11-time Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Grey-Thompson has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to keep gyms and leisure centres open during the new lockdown.
Grey-Thompson wants the facilities to stay open because of the “essential role they play in both our fight and recovery from this virus”.
BBC Sports editor Dan Roan
The major professional governing bodies will be relieved that, unlike in the spring during the first national lockdown, action can at least continue behind closed doors, but hopes of a quick return of spectators eight months after turnstiles closed have suffered a major setback.
The closure of gyms, pools and indoor sports facilities just a few months after they introduced strict hygiene and safety protocols enabling them to re-open, despite data showing comparatively low risk of transmission, will reinforce demands for a £1.5bn recovery fund for the sports sector, similar to the bail-out given to the culture and arts industry earlier this year.
The fear is that these latest restrictions could lead to thousands of job losses, cause many facilities to close, and adversely affect physical and mental health, just when it is needed most to help the country get through this crisis.
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