GOLF courses and tennis courts are among the sports facilities which must close as a third national lockdown is imposed across England.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown yesterday (Monday) evening, as the government seeks to tackle the surge in Covid-19 cases across the country.
Much of grassroots sport – including football and rugby – was already on hold in Somerset, with the Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West & Taunton and South Somerset council areas having been placed under Tier 4 restrictions.
Now youth football has also been suspended, following updated guidance from the Football Association (FA).
An FA statement said: “The impact on ‘non elite’ football in England will include the suspension of fixtures and training across the following, with immediate effect:
- Steps 3-6 of the National League System (NLS)
- Tiers 3-7 of the Women’s Football Pyramid
- Regional NLS feeder leagues
- Barclays FA WSL Academy League (unless under elite status)
- FA Girls Regional Talent Clubs (unless under elite status)
- All indoor and outdoor youth and adult grassroots football, including under-18s (except organised outdoor football for disabled people, which is allowed to continue)
- Vitality Women’s FA Cup (currently classified as ‘non-elite’ at this stage in the competition).
“It is extremely important that clubs, players, coaches, match officials, league officials, volunteers, parents, carers and facility providers adhere to the UK government’s new national Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, and we implore everyone to follow these.
“Dialogue will continue with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, leagues, competitions and County FAs, and we will provide further updates for the 2020/21 Vitality Women’s FA Cup, Buildbase FA Vase and ‘non-elite’ football when relevant.
“We would like to thank the football community once again for its hard work, resilience and understanding during such an incredibly challenging period for both the game and wider society.”
Tier 4 restrictions had allowed outdoor pools, sports courts and golf courses to stay open, but now those have been ordered to close.
The government is instructing people to stay at home, unless for a valid reason, such as for childcare, shopping for essential items or exercise.
People may exercise alone with one other person (while maintaining social distancing), or members of their household or support bubble.
This exercise should be limited to once per day, and people should not travel outside of their local area.
Exercise may take place in a public outdoor place – such as parks, beaches, countryside, public gardens and playgrounds – but outdoor sports venues, including tennis courts, golf courses and swimming pools, must close.
The full government guidance can be found here.
Reacting to that news, England Golf said in a statement: “Golf clubs, golf facilities – both indoor and outdoor – and driving ranges will be required to close during this full lockdown.
“As such, coaching will not be permitted.
“Golf retailers will be able to operate a click-and-collect service where goods are pre-ordered and either collected off the premises or delivered.
“England Golf – as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, along with other leading industry bodies – is extremely disappointed with the news, having made a strong case in recent months to keep golf open during the national lockdowns and in the regional tier system.
“It is with great regret that we share this news with you, but please be assured that we will continue to make the case for golf to reopen whenever possible.”
Similarly, a Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) statement reads: “The LTA can confirm that, regrettably, all indoor and outdoor tennis facilities will need to close.
“The LTA believes tennis is a naturally socially distanced sport that is safe to play and gives people of all ages the opportunity to exercise with friends or relatives.
“Tennis is important for people’s physical and mental health and we will continue to liaise with the government to ask them to allow players back on court as soon as possible.”
As well as organised sport being allowed to continue for disabled people, an exemption is being made for professional athletes – meaning that Somerset County Cricket Club’s players are allowed to continue training together ahead of the 2021 county cricket season.
One of the circumstances listed by the government, which allows people to meet in larger groups, is “for elite sportspeople (and their coaches if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are under 18) – or those on an official elite sports pathway – to compete and train”.