Swimming, golf, tennis and grassroots sport among those outlawed as England enters second lockdown

Swimmers at Ponds Forge in Sheffield (Picture: Scott Merrylees)Swimmers at Ponds Forge in Sheffield (Picture: Scott Merrylees)
Swimmers at Ponds Forge in Sheffield (Picture: Scott Merrylees)
England wakes to a second lockdown this morning that jeopardises the future of a wide range of sports and prohibits the recreational pursuit of the vast majority.

Sports like swimming, badminton, golf and tennis will be shut down for the next month at least in the Government’s latest attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus.

These new measures have drawn widespread derision across the sector; from the governing bodies that are forced to close their doors again, to the schoolchildren who have been told they can attend classes but cannot play sports with their friends.

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Only ‘elite’ sport as Prime Minister Boris Johnson put it – professional sport in effect – has survived, with football from Premier League to National League North continuing, Super League stumbling towards its conclusion at the end of the month, the British Basketball League commencing and England’s rugby union internationals scheduled for later this month.

But there are grave concerns for recreational sports.

Swim England took their fight for pools to remain open to parliament yesterday, but with no U-turn coming from the Government, the closure of swimming facilities could cause lasting damage.

Jane Nickerson, the chief executive of Swim England, told The Yorkshire Post back in July when pools were not among the first leisure facilities to open, that up to 40 per cent may never reopen.

And after the brief respite of the early autumn, the closure of pools today could cast a further shadow over the future of one of the more basic recreational exercises, one that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.

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Swim England sent a petition to Mr Johnson signed by 23,000 people asking for a U-turn, saying: “its facilities should remain open to help maintain the physical and mental health of the nation during the pandemic”.

Badminton England is another governing body fighting a rising tide.

Last week they announced a restructure as a result of the pandemic that will put 25 per cent of their workforce at the risk of redundancy.

They have launched a petition calling for a Sports Recovery Fund to ensure leisure facilities and sport clubs can remain open.

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Golf was one of the first sports to return in the spring, with club players of all ages back on local fairways from May 13, provided they adhered to social distancing protocols.

But yesterday, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf (APPGG) admitted defeat in its bid to keep courses open during the upcoming lockdown.

The APPGG wrote to the Prime Minister on behalf of England Golf, the PGA, the R&A and other leading groups from the industry to make the case for golf to be exempt from tightened restrictions.

England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson has written to the organisation’s members to confirm the news.

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Jonathan Plaxton, secretary of the Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs, told The Yorkshire Post: “We share the disappointment and frustration of golf clubs and golfers in Yorkshire.

“We firmly believe that for many, golf, under Covid-approved conditions, is a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

“We rely on the continued support of golf club members to ensure that course maintenance continues to be funded and sincerely hope that some form of golf will be allowed in the very near future.”

The Football Association confirmed earlier this week that the game at all amateur and junior levels will be put on hold.

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A Government spokesperson said: “Indoor and outdoor grassroots sport facilities must close in line with the latest public health guidance.

“But outdoor exercise will be permitted alone, with your household, or one person of another household, so that people are able to stay active safely.”

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