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Local sports clubs set for kick-off from 29th March

Lymington's Owen Fee and Bashley's Matt Crowe a week before lockdown began (photo: Les Chase)
Lymington's Owen Fee and Bashley's Matt Crowe a week before lockdown began (photo: Les Chase)

SPORTS clubs across the New Forest and Christchurch have welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that restrictions on grassroots outdoor sports will be eased from 29th March.

Local football clubs have had their seasons put on hold while venues such as gyms, tennis courts and golf courses have been closed since lockdown was announced on 4th January.

Outdoor sports will return first before leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools reopen from 12th April at the earliest.

The easing of sports restrictions will begin on 8th March when schools reopen and under-18s sport will be allowed there as part of education or wraparound care at breakfast clubs or after school.

The stay-at-home restrictions will continue after this date, but they will be amended so people can leave home for outdoor exercise. This must be within their household, support or childcare bubble, or with one person from another household.

Formally organised outdoor sports will return from 29th March – for adults and under-18s – and will not be subject to gatherings limits, which will be a relief to local non-league football clubs who rely on matchday revenue to remain financially viable.

Sydenhams Wessex Football League chairman, Nick Spencer, said: “It is good news that there is now a roadmap, which will hopefully give people a lift and allow them to return to a degree of normality.

“The league’s position remains the same. Football will only resume once The FA gives us the green light. It’s important to recognise that match officials and players will need time to reach match fitness. The availability of both and volunteers is crucial to matches being played.

“I’m sure that the football family are looking forward to resuming playing fixtures in front of spectators. I am also certain that they will join me in pausing to remember those who have passed away due to the pandemic.”

Before starting the current lockdown, rugby’s governing body, the RFU, released a Covid law variation of the 15-a-side game with no scrums or mauls in a bid to mitigate the risks of close contact.

New Milton Rugby Club’s director of rugby, Brendan Treacey, said: “It’s good news for the club and our members. At the club, we have been busy working on a return-to-rugby plan – as we are conscious that it has been a while since we have been able to play rugby in full and some time since there has been any activity at the club.

“We have a plan to stagger the training sessions to allow for more social distancing on the playing fields and to minimise the traffic of people arriving and leaving.”

“We have lost a large portion of our revenue as the clubhouse is normally hired out regularly for parties, celebrations and weddings. We are looking forward to opening fully, but it will remain closed in line with government guidelines. We will be able to serve refreshments outside from 12th April.

“We are hoping that the RFU will extend the season into early summer, as I know this is being discussed with grassroots football. This would mean we could host inside hospitality after 17th May, as the season typically ends around that time. Either way, New Milton RFC will have a summer activities plan and hopefully summer camps.”

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and outdoor swimming pools, will also reopen at the end of next month.

Lymington Tennis Club chair, Lynne Truell, said: “We look forward to playing matches as soon as possible in the Hampshire and Dorset leagues. With admirable support from Lymington and Pennington Town Council, Lymington Tennis Club will be reopening under the Lawn Tennis Association guidance. As a members-run club, we look forward to playing, training, competing and socialising.”

Indoor leisure and gyms will be allowed to reopen their doors no earlier than 12th April for individuals or household groups. At this stage, all children will be able to attend indoor activities. Finally, Adults will be able to participate in indoor group sports and exercise classes from 17th May.

BCP Councillor Mohan Iyengar, portfolio holder for tourism, leisure and culture, said: “Following the government’s latest announcement, we’ll be glad to start reopening services at Two Riversmeet leisure complex.

“From 29th March, outdoor 3G pitches will be available, with the swimming pool, gym and pay-as-you-go racquet sports back in use from 12th April – there is also a possibility of the trampoline hire, which we’ll announce separately.

“Finally, group classes for juniors and adult-fitness will resume from 17th May. We accept this is still some time away, but our popular online classes will stay running until then.

Further activities such as the racket sports leagues, indoor football and food-drink provision in the centre will be reopened as soon as we have the clearance from the government to do so.”

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