Anger was mounting on Tuesday over “absurd” inconsistencies for grass-roots sport between countries of the United Kingdom during the third lockdown.
Under-12s, angling, golf and tennis organisations expressed dismay over activities being allowed in Scotland but not in England.
The obliteration of children’s sport does not apply north of the border for primary school ages following lobbying in the spring by Play Scotland.
Children under the age of 12 “do not count towards the total number of people counted in a gathering” even under the nation’s severest restrictions.
With the Welsh Government also committed to allowing children to play outside together, the Children’s Commissioner for England and child welfare groups UsForThem and Playing Out called for exemptions from Downing Street.
A petition to allow golf in England with “appropriate safety measures” gathered more than 25,000 signatures in hours after it was shared by Lee Westwood.
Jeremy Tomlinson, the England Golf chief executive, said it was inexplicable that his sport had not been granted the same exemption as it has in Scotland. “I apologise to all golfers that we haven’t been able to help the Government understand that golf could be part of a solution as opposed to the problem,” he said.
Lawyers for the Angling Trust have also been studying the new guidance. Although there is no direct mention of fishing, the stipulation that you can leave your house for exercise but not for the purpose of outdoor recreation or leisure has left them dismayed.
Fishing was the first sport allowed back following the original lockdown and there was a strong feeling that, as in Germany, Holland, Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Ireland, such a naturally self-isolating activity should never have been part of any Covid-19 lockdown.
“The guidelines represent an unwelcome U-turn and reveal the absurdity that is unfolding regarding outdoor recreation and country sports,” Martin Salter, the Angling Trust’s head of policy, said.
“Unless the regulations are amended, we will end up being able to play golf and go fishing in Scotland, walk or cycle to go fishing in Wales and not to be able to do either in England.”
Outdoor tennis continuing in Scotland while clubs in England must close “rubs salt into the wound”, according to Alan Hodgson, treasurer of Northumberland’s Corbridge Tennis Club.
Since the spring in Scotland, “children under 12 do not need to maintain physical distance from others” under the nation’s rules. Molly Kingsley, founder of the UsForThem child welfare campaign group, has warned parents may revolt in England due to a lack of “mitigation” offered for child activity.
“I think there is an urgent and critical need for the rules here to be simplified, and there’s an urgent need for exemptions to be made so that children can have a degree of social interaction over the coming month,” she said.