Oliver Dowden vows grassroots sports will be among first to return from lockdown

·2-min read

Grassroots sports will be among the first areas of society to reopen once it is deemed safe, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Thursday.

Dowden was responding during DCMS questions at the House of Commons to MP Shaun Bailey, who highlighted the plight of grassroots football clubs in his West Bromwich constituency.

Dowden said: “I know that football clubs large and small make a huge contribution to their community on and off the pitch.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says grassroots sporting facilities will be
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says grassroots sporting facilities will be “at the front of the queue” to reopen (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“And I can assure my honourable friend they won’t be forgotten. As soon as we’re in a position to start lifting restrictions, grassroots sports will be one of the first to return.

“But, until then, we have made sure that families can keep exercising throughout this lockdown so I would urge people to get out and get fit.”

There has been widespread criticism of the decision to shut down children’s sport during the four-week coronavirus lockdown in England, while golf and tennis bodies unsuccessfully lobbied the Government for facilities to be allowed to remain open.

Indoor sporting facilities have had a particularly challenging time, with many not reopening at all since the initial lifting of lockdown restrictions earlier this year.

Tennis clubs like Holcombe Brook in Bury had hoped to be able to remain open
Tennis clubs like Holcombe Brook in Bury had hoped to be able to remain open (Martin Rickett/PA)

Digital, culture, media and sport minister Nigel Huddleston said leisure centres and other facilities would soon be able to bid for a £100million Government fund to help them survive.

Huddleston said: “I completely understand the challenges facing many leisure facilities right across the country.

“Some of them have been able to open, some of them haven’t. Some are open but we’re aware they’re in a precarious financial state.”

Dowden added that swimming pools, gyms and golf courses would all be “at the front of the queue to return when these restrictions expire”.

Mark Arthur, the chief executive of Yorkshire county cricket club, said the approach the Government had taken on grassroots sport was “illogical”.

“I don’t think the Government understands sport,” he said during a Yorkshire sport webinar on Thursday.

“I would like the Government to understand that sport has a real job to do in society and that’s what does bring people together, and it should trust sport a little bit more to deal with some of the social issues this country faces.

“Robbie Savage did a podcast yesterday questioning why children can mix together in a classroom but they can’t play football together outside in the open air. Some of the decisions the Government have been making have been illogical and I would like to see some proper dialogue going on when we get out of this pandemic about how sport can play a major part in inclusion within our society.”

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