Plans to ensure golf was the first sport to return after the second national coronavirus lockdown were being drawn up by MPs on Saturday ahead of a parliamentary debate on the “ridiculous” closure of courses.
The Telegraph revelation that gyms and leisure centres would be allowed to reopen after December 2 sparked calls for outdoor grassroots and children’s sport to be cleared to resume as well.
That included golf, a debate on which will be staged in Westminster Hall on Monday afternoon after a petition to exempt courses from the list of venues required to close due to Covid-19 attracted more than a quarter of a million signatures.
Craig Tracey, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, told Telegraph Sport there was “unlikely” to be a U-turn from Boris Johnson on the current restrictions.
But he added: “What we’re working towards now is getting it the first sport back up and running on the 2nd or 3rd of December. It was the first last time because we were able to make a really good case.”
Tracey said it was “very clear” the refusal to exempt golf courses from the lockdown had been “made centrally” by the Prime Minister rather than by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
“Our discussions with the ministers, they’re really, really supportive,” he added. “So, I think, if they were able to get it back, it would be back now.”
Julian Knight, a vice-chair of the APPG and also chair of the DCMS select committee, said it was “ridiculous” golf had been banned given it was “built for social distancing”.
“I can see less case for a golf course being closed than I can for a gym,” he added.
“I can sort of see the case sometimes for gyms because you’re expelling aerosols, you’re in an enclosed space. Whereas, on golf courses, you’re out in the open air and you’re more than two metres apart.”
Knight also called for the reopening of tennis courts and the resumption of out-of-school children’s sport, having previously backed the Telegraph ‘Keep Kids Active in Lockdown’ campaign.
That was echoed by Lisa Wainwright, the chief executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, who said organised children’s sport should return “without a shadow of a doubt”.
She also welcomed the prospect of gyms and leisure centres reopening next month, saying: “It would be absolutely the right move from a mental health perspective, a physical health perspective, for the new year.”
Huw Edwards, the chief executive of ukactive, which represents the latter sector, added: “If true, it’ll be a very positive step.”
Both also reiterated their calls for a Government bailout of the entire industry worth up to £1.5 billion following last week’s £300 million rescue package for 11 sports.
Wainwright said: “In terms of the 11 sports, it’s a great start for the revenue that they will have lost. But then there are 300-plus sports out there in all our communities that we know will need sport medium-term.”
Wainwright revealed that the SRA had undertaken “a huge piece of research” to determine the precise size of the bailout the industry would need when current emergency funding dried up at the end of the year.
“We want to be clear with Government,” she said. “They’ve helped us pretty well as a sector to start off with through Sport England but we want the evidence to be able to demonstrate to Treasury the actual need.”