Grassroots outdoor sports to resume from end of March under roadmap out of lockdown

Harry Yorke
·3-min read
grassroots sport 
grassroots sport

Grassroots sports including Sunday league football, golf and tennis will resume at the end of March - but amateur rugby players face a ban on scrums until later in the year.

Setting out the “road to recovery” in Parliament on Monday, the Prime Minister confirmed that the intention is for organised outdoor sports to start again during Step 1 of easing restrictions.

The first step will begin on March 8, when schools reopen for all age groups and headteachers are given the option to resume PE lessons and after school sports clubs for pupils.

In the second phase of step one, commencing March 29 at the earliest, the restrictions on sports will ease further, with organised outdoor sport permitted for both children and adults. This includes outdoor swimming pools.

"Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s - can also restart and will not be subject to the gatherings limits, but should be compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies,” the roadmap states.

Mr Johnson said that tighter restrictions would remain in place for contact sports such as rugby union, which will be allowed to reintroduce tackling but without scrums.

The disclosure led the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to remark: “So it’s rugby league.”

Despite being among the first sports to see restrictions eased, England Golf, the governing body for amateur golfers, said it was "extremely disappointed that the scientific evidence presented to government detailing how the sport can be played in a Covid-secure manner has not resulted in a return to play date earlier than 29 March."

Mr Johnson has previously said that resuming sports and exercise outdoors is a priority for the Government, with ministers increasing concerned over the impact that lockdown restrictions have had on people’s physical health and mental wellbeing.

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, also pushed hard for schools to be able to resume sports for pupils during the first step of the roadmap.

Under the second step for easing restrictions, expected no earlier than 12 April, children will be allowed to resume all indoor sports.

However, with ministers and scientists concerned about the heightened risk of transmission, restrictions on organised adult indoor group sports, such as basketball and five-aside football, will only begin in step three, no sooner than May 17.

Setting out the justification for resuming outdoor sports ahead of other sectors, the roadmap document says it will help to “reduce the adverse physical and mental health effects experienced by large parts of the population, in particular children and those living alone.”

It goes on to state: “Exercise and outdoor sports are well documented to reduce individuals’ risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower risk of early death by up to 30 per cent.

“Physical activity is also known to help with improving mental health through better sleep, happier moods, and managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and ‘racing’ thoughts.”

With the Government hoping to have removed all legal limits on social contact by step four, which will not start until June 21 at the earliest, all sports should have returned to normal in time for the summer.