Non-elite sport will return in England on March 29th as the second stage of a new roadmap for emerging from lockdown announced in Westminster yesterday.
Golf and Tennis will both be held off until that date, despite strong representations for them to come back earlier in a Covid compliant setting.
Children will return to sport as well at that time across team and individual sports in an outdoor setting.
The only exception to outdoor sports at the moment is that of rugby where tackling will be permitted but not scrums. That restriction appears to apply to adult and juvenile sport, another blow for rugby if that was to be taken as a template if it is based on evidence of higher risk.
Indoor sport for children will be allowed, once overall vaccination and virus numbers are met, from a target date of April 12th, while the same easing for adults to play indoors will be targeted for May 17th.
That is also the stage and the date when spectators are to be first allowed back into arenas, a subject we cover in greater detail in our Return to Stadia Weekly Column.
Sport and exercise are being front-loaded in the roadmap for emergence from lockdown.
The Government statement read that “Exercise and outdoor sports are well documented to reduce individuals’ risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower risk of early death by up to 30 per cent.”
“Physical activity is also known to help with improving mental health through better sleep, happier moods, and managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and ‘racing’ thoughts.”
This easing of restrictions applies only to England at present but will increase pressure on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow a similar path, which will, in turn, add to the strength of voices here to allow greater flexibility for outdoor sport and children in particular.
Our own revised ‘Living with Covid’ roadmap is expected today but the pieces can be put together from various Ministers announcements, that a further six weeks of full level five is likely, bringing us to beyond Easter at the earliest.
Schools will return earlier but there seems little evidence of any other easing which will be disappointing for those involved in children’s sport, golf and tennis in particular.
Still, until we hear it directly and officially from An Taoiseach, perhaps we can still dare to hope that some things will begin to look a little more possible.
Sport for Business Partners