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Elite sport continues through third coronavirus lockdown as grassroots takes hit

Sheffield United v Everton – Premier League – Bramall Lane
(Image credit: George Wood)

Elite sport will continue through the latest coronavirus lockdown but, while the likes of the Premier League and Scottish Premiership play on, grassroots sport has taken a hit again.

A March-style full lockdown due to concerns of rising Covid-19 cases means outdoor gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts, archery/driving/shooting ranges and riding arenas must all close.

Outdoor team sports and golf will be prohibited in England, although the latter will be allowed to continue in small groups in Scotland.

England Golf, which campaigned hard for the reopening of courses when they were closed first time around, expressed disappointment.

“England Golf – as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf along with other leading industry bodies – is extremely disappointed with the news, having made a strong case in recent months to keep golf open during the national lockdowns and in the regional tier system,” said a statement.

“It is with great regret that we share this news with you, but please be assured that we will continue to make the case for golf to reopen whenever possible.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown on Monday night, falling into line with Scotland, who earlier in the day said its football and rugby clubs could carry on training and playing as normal after introducing new restrictions for the general public north of the border.

Elite sportspeople and their coaches will still be able to compete and train. Organised outdoor sport for disabled people is also able to continue.

Included on the exempt list were elite sports with established Covid-19 protocols and “elite sportspeople (and their coaches if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are under 18) – or those on an official elite sports pathway”.

But while the Premier League and EFL can continue, football below that – steps three to six of the National League system and tiers three to seven of the women’s football pyramid right down to grassroots – must stop.

The Vitality Women’s FA Cup will also be halted as it is classed as non-elite at this stage of the competition.

“Dialogue will continue with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, leagues, competitions and County Football Associations and we will provide further updates for the 2020-21 Vitality Women’s FA Cup, Buildbase FA Vase and non-elite football when relevant,” a Football Association statement read.

The Lawn Tennis Association also wants to put its case across.

“Tennis is a naturally socially-distanced sport that is safe to play and gives people the opportunity to get outside and exercise with a friend or relative,” a statement read.

The British Horseracing Authority confirmed racing would be continuing behind closed doors.

“Attendance will be limited to those essential to the staging of fixtures and strict adherence to British racing’s Covid-19 protocols will continue to be required for all who attend,” a statement read.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had earlier introduced her own strict new measures with most of Scotland placed in lockdown from Tuesday for the whole of January to tackle the rising spread of the new coronavirus strain.

The Scottish Government, has, however, also released an exemption list which stated “those involved in professional sports, for training, coaching or competing in an event” are among those allowed to leave their homes.

A Scottish Football Association statement read: “Following the First Minister’s announcement regarding increased restrictions this afternoon, we will liaise with @ScotGov on the impact upon grassroots football.

“We will provide a further update in due course.”