Second lockdown a blow for local sport as football clubs await fate

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Christchurch made this season’s FA Cup Third Qualifying Round (photo: @justinparrypho1)

LOCAL grassroots sport has been dealt a devastating blow after the government announced its second national lockdown, starting Thursday.

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As part of the four-week restrictions, leisure centres and gyms will be forced to close, as will other sporting facilities such as swimming pools and golf courses.

This leaves non-league football in a state of limbo as clubs, officials and fans wait for an announcement from the Football Association to see which levels of the game will be allowed to continue.

The government has already confirmed that elite sport, including the Premier League, EFL and National League, will be allowed to continue.

The FA tweeted late on Saturday night: “We acknowledge the government’s announcement today regarding Covid-19 restrictions and are awaiting further information before we can confirm how this may affect non-elite football across England. We will communicate any necessary updates in due course.”

Sydenhams Wessex League declined to comment as they wait for the FA announcement, which is expected later today (Monday) or tomorrow. This week’s midweek fixtures are still scheduled to take place.

Under the new restrictions, people are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as education and work that cannot be done from home. Residents are also being told they can exercise outdoors only with their household, one other person or alone.

In March, the 2019-20 football season was declared null and void from steps two to six due to the first lockdown period. Since non-league football resumed, with social distancing and other Covid-secure measures in place, clubs have seen a vastly increased demand for tickets with fans banned from higher-level games.

Golf courses and driving ranges have also been told to close, but England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson released a statement saying the organisation would “respectfully challenge the government’s rationale” over the decision.

He continued: “It is our sincere belief that it is now counter-productive to shut down a healthy pursuit which naturally lends itself to social distancing and is played in a Covid-secure manner in the open air.”

Tomlinson has also signed a petition to make courses exempt from the list of venues required to close. The petition has already surpassed 100,000 signatures, allowing it to be considered for a debate in parliament.

England Golf is the governing body for all New Forest and Christchurch golf clubs.

England Hockey, which oversees New Forest Hockey Club, says it is disappointed the new measures will mean no club or community hockey for at least a month.

The Sports and Recreation Alliance, which represents UK national sports organisations including the FA and Rugby Football Union along with community sport, has warned the new measures may “prove to be the final nail in the coffin for a number of clubs”.

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