Government told ‘children’s sport is vital’

The ban on children’s sport could effectively extend beyond the second national coronavirus lockdown unless a roadmap is produced for its immediate return, the Government was warned on Wednesday.

Ministers were told the sport sector and schools needed clarity over what activity under-18s could be allowed to undertake if the lockdown ends on Dec 2.

The Telegraph Sport “Keep Kids Active in Lockdown” campaign has already highlighted how a lack of notice and clear guidance before the lockdown acted as a catalyst for head teachers to cancel after-school sports clubs.

There were fears on Wednesday the return of sport outside school could be similarly curtailed. The Labour party, Sport and Recreation Alliance, National Association of Head Teachers, Association for Physical Education and ukactive called for a roadmap out of lockdown.

Alison McGovern, the shadow sports minister, said: “Sport needs to be up the agenda, not an afterthought, and I think it cannot be beyond ministers to say, ‘OK, this is an uncertain situation and we don’t know what is going to happen with this virus. But here’s a list of conversations that we’re having to make sure that people are ready to go’.”

Lisa Wainwright, chief executive of the SRA, added: “The Government has said sport and physical activity will be one of the first sectors to reopen after lockdown, but they must make sure the sector is briefed with a well-communicated action plan.

“It is vitally important for the health and well-being of the nation, and in particular our children and young people, that the Government invests in grassroots clubs and local facilities to ensure that opportunities will remain available for people to improve both their mental and physical health by being active after Dec 2nd.”

James Bowen, director of policy for NAHT, said: “The Government’s advice on school sport since the start of the latest national lockdown has been confusing and contradictory. It has left schools not knowing what they are and are not allowed to do, particularly when it comes to extra-curricular sports.

“Schools also need clarity about what the expectations will be as we come out of a national lockdown. Realistically, this is needed within the next week or so to allow the necessary planning and organisation to take place. This will be particularly true if we see significant changes to the current guidelines.”

Sue Wilkinson, the AFPE chief executive, said: “After three weeks, one would hope we’ve got a clear vision of where we’re going, so we have clear, concise and not-confusing messages going out here.”

Huw Edwards, the chief executive of ukactive, which represents gyms and leisure centres, said: “It will take the minimum of a week to mobilise a sector of this size and scale.

“We need the understanding now, really – constructive conversations on what is the state of play and what is going to be the roll-out.”

One of the biggest leisure centres represented by ukactive will not be reopening next month after it was revealed that Swindon Oasis was closing.

Swindon Borough Council was sent an email by the centre’s operator, GLL, saying a review with landlord Seven Capital had concluded that it was “not viable”.

In the email, GLL said the “enforced closures” and the centre’s “reduced operating capacity when open” had led to operations being reviewed.

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