Coronavirus: Non-elite sport given March resumption date in England by UK government

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed a roadmap out of lockdown that will include easing of restrictions on organised sport; grassroots football, golf, tennis, and other outdoor sport to resume on March 29

PA - General view of St Andrews golf course
Image: Golf courses will reopen to the public in England on March 29

Non-elite sport - including grassroots football - can resume in England from March 29 as the government begins to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed a roadmap out of lockdown that will confirm schools in England will reopen to all pupils on March 8, with children's after-school sports and activities also allowed to resume.

On the same date, outdoor recreation with one other person will also be permitted, meaning people will be allowed to sit together in a park with a coffee, drink, or picnic.

Adults will have to wait a further three weeks to restart organised sports, with grassroots football then able to resume, along with the reopening of tennis courts, golf courses and other outdoor sport facilities.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, speaking earlier on Monday to LBC, said: "The simple way to look at this is that outdoor is safer and therefore we prioritise [it] versus indoor.

"Outdoor sports - tennis, golf, outdoor organised team sports, grassroots football - will go back on March 29."

Grassroots football is set to resume on March 29 (PA image)
Image: Grassroots football will also be allowed to resume on March 29 in England

In a statement on Monday evening, the FA said it will extend the grassroots season until the end of June.

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"We welcome the UK Government's update today regarding the Covid-19 roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions which means we can look forward to the safe return of grassroots football from 29 March for both adults and children," the statement read.

"With this new clarity around timings, we will continue to work with Government on plans for a safe return for grassroots football across England and will communicate updated guidance as soon as we can.

"We can also confirm that the 2020-21 grassroots season has been extended until the end of June in order to provide additional flexibility and time for leagues to complete their fixtures this season if they wish to do so."

The use of indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms, will then be possible for individuals or household groups from April 12 at the earliest.

The relaxation of measures is the first stage of a four-part roadmap which includes the reopening of non-essential retail and hospitality in the coming months.

But restrictions will be eased step-by-step across the whole of England, avoiding a return to the previous system of regional tiers.

The prime minister announced his plan to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, with MPs due to vote on the regulations in the coming weeks.

Johnson announced on January 4 the country would enter its third lockdown, and while elite sports were allowed to continue, amateur competition was suspended.

Following that announcement, both England Golf and the Lawn Tennis Association expressed disappointment at the decision, arguing that their sports are naturally socially distanced and should have been allowed to continue.

'People are struggling to stay active'

UK Active say 36 per cent of people have reported being bored of their exercise options
Image: UK Active say 36 per cent of people have reported being bored of their exercise options

People are becoming less physically active the longer the country remains in lockdown, data from UK Active suggests.

UK Active, a not-for-profit body representing the physical activity and fitness sector, has published data from a Savanta ComRes poll showing 42 per cent of adults are sitting for 14 hours longer a week during lockdown.

More than a third - 36 per cent - report being bored of their exercise options, UK Active said.

UK Active chief executive Huw Edwards said: "These findings show many people are really struggling to stay active, and we know this can have a major impact on mental and physical well-being, particularly for vulnerable groups.

"The first lockdown saw a welcome focus and motivation for maintaining active lives, however, it is clear that the longer our fitness and leisure facilities are closed, the harder it becomes for people to maintain a healthy level of activity.

"While many people have found support through a growing array of online fitness classes, it is vital for our national activity levels that our communities have access to a variety of safe facilities for sport and exercise.

"The Government needs to prioritise the reopening of our sector's facilities when lockdown restrictions begin to ease, so they can return to their essential role in supporting our physical and mental health."

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