Government urged to rethink plans to close sports facilities as part of lockdown

The Government has been urged to rethink plans to close sports facilities such as golf courses as part of new coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Stricter measures are set to come into force from Thursday in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, and will include indoor and outdoor sports facilities such as driving ranges being ordered to close.

Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, believes the approach is wrong.

“A blanket ban is not the correct way of going about things,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Perhaps there needs to be some reflection on the work that was done in the spring by these institutions. I know one golf club for instance that spent £5,000 on sanitising, I know another one that tested staff at a cost of £400 a week.

“Don’t forget many of these courses are related to hotels and there they have had a real problem haven’t they, because they have been unable to really open at any sort of capacity for most of the pandemic.”

Knight added: “There are health benefits, both physical and mental. These sports are uniquely built for social distancing. They opened safely in the spring in a limited way, no clubhouses, changing rooms.

“We need to acknowledge the enormous expense and efforts from both these sports in order to make them Covid-secure.”

Michael Gove says the new lockdown measures could be extended beyond the start of December
Michael Gove says the new lockdown measures could be extended beyond the start of December (Handout/BBC)

The Government’s guidance on the new lockdown measures state that indoor and outdoor leisure and sports facilities including gyms, swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, climbing walls and climbing centres and archery and shooting ranges will be ordered to close.

The restrictions are initially set to remain in place until December 2, but Cabinet minister Michael Gove said on Sunday they could be extended.

The chief executive of England Golf, Jeremy Tomlinson, said in a letter that his organisation had not been consulted over the new restrictions and that closing golf facilities would be “counter-productive”.

Our CEO has written an open letter to all golfers following yesterday's announcement from the Prime Minister.

Read here: https://t.co/58yI1VSP4Apic.twitter.com/DSCJpPWc8U

— England Golf (@EnglandGolf) November 1, 2020

Tim Hollingsworth, the chief executive of grassroots sports funding body Sport England, also told the Today programme: “We do still need to make sure that people find ways to be active outside and benefit their physical and mental well-being.

“That really is the most critical thing in relation to helping to tackle the pandemic.”

The Football Association is awaiting guidance over how the new measures affect the FA Cup first round ties involving clubs below National League level.

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