Indoor sports call for government protection amid coronavirus restrictions
By Rebecca Williams, Sky Sports News reporter
Last Updated: 12/08/20 6:15pm
England Netball are warning that if indoor netball isn't given the green light to go ahead soon, it will pose a massive threat to women's participation levels in the sport, especially among certain ethnic groups.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic means a number of training facilities remain closed and a date still hasn't been confirmed for the Vitality Super League to resume, with players unable to train indoors.
England Netball director of development Katie Ritchie told Sky Sports News that both elite and grassroots level has been seriously impacted: "For many groups of women, an indoor and enclosed environment enables them to play.
"We know that for young girls in particular there are issues around body confidence and netball plays a large part in tackling that gender gap.
"It's really important for the teenage game, but also women living in cities, Muslim and Sikh groups who will only play in enclosed areas where they can't be seen by men. So it matters for so many groups across society for us to get indoor facilities open again."
Around 2.4 million people play regular indoor sport in this country.
The likes of netball, badminton, table tennis and volleyball are now calling on the government to step in, to support training and sports centres so that people can get back to playing their favourite sports.
Whilst badminton is now able to go ahead indoors, two thirds of training centres remain closed.
Elite players, aiming for the Olympics, are able to gain access to courts. But the grassroots level has been hit hard.
The worry is that an entire generation of future Olympians could be lost, given the lack of access to training facilities.
Chief executive of Badminton England, Adrian Christy said: "For grassroots sport and for those who, over time, have built up great participation on a regular basis are just finding doors locked and court lights turned off.
"The question is can you get those people back at all and will those facilities ever be able to recover from the terrible situation we are in.
"I think if we are not careful, by restricting or limiting how many facilities are open, young people are not going to experience sport. The knock on effect of that further down the line is that we don't discover that talent, that nugget of our future medal potential and I think that will be a crying shame."
Across the country, just six per cent of volleyball clubs have been able to book indoor courts.
In recent years, there has been a big drive to increase participation in the game in this country. But there are now fears that much of the work will be undone.
Whilst it is still possible to play beach volleyball, as winter draws in, players will want to train and compete indoors.
Chief executive of Volleyball England, Sue Storey told Sky Sports News: "Sadly we are not in the position of some of the bigger sports in this country.
"We don't have a dedicated facility, so we have to hire courts if we want to. So our England camps are having to book facilities where we can. And we are struggling".
The coronavirus pandemic has clearly had a massive impact on a number of sports. There are fears that some ice rinks could close permanently as they struggle to weather the financial storm after months of being shut.
Some figure skaters aiming for the Olympics are even said to be considering moving abroad so that they can train more easily.
The Government responded to the calls with a statement on Wednesday: "We recognise how important indoor sports are for people's health and wellbeing across the country.
"We are working closely with the leisure sector to support them to operate safely, in line with wider public health guidance, and discuss what further assistance we can provide."