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Lockdown footie ban is an own goal, say clubs

Politicians are urged to scrap coronavirus postponement of grassroots matches

05 November, 2020 — By Steve Barnett

Footballers from St John’s Wood Youth FC are among those set to miss out as grassroots matches are suspended during the second coronavirus lockdown

THE government is being urged to perform another U-turn by lifting the ban on grassroots football during the latest lockdown.

Matches have been postponed as part of new coronavirus restrictions which came into effect yesterday (Thursday) and are set to last for a month.

But an online petition – which has already garnered 100,000 names – is pleading with MPs not to score an own goal by neglecting the physical and mental health of children in the process.

James Hammond, who runs St John’s Wood Youth FC, believes it is vital that young footballers can “continue doing something they love” during “such scary times”. He said: “As long as schools are open and functioning as normal, I see no real logical reason to stop all outdoor grassroots football.

“I am a father of three, first and foremost, who knows how important grassroots sport has been to my children.

“The physical and mental health problems the ban bears on all children will have an extremely negative impact up and down the country.”

James, who has been coaching youth football for over 20 years, now has more than 120 youngsters on the books at St John’s Wood. He pointed to the government’s own data which “proves that children are less likely to catch the virus”, hence the decision to keep schools open.

He added: “In schools, currently, we have classrooms with 20 to 30 children in [and] lots of surfaces for the virus to land on whilst the children are talking, coughing and sneezing over each other in central-heated rooms, presenting lots of opportunity for infection.

“Playing sports outside has already been proven to be a significantly smaller risk as the virus lands straight on the ground or droplets are taken in the fresh air.

“This is data and evidence provided to us by our government and scientists, not a sole opinion of mine, so why they are allowing schools to stay open but closing down all outdoor sports facilities is mind-boggling.

“We have added Covid-19 measures into our risk assessments and implemented them. We have followed all guidelines and advice given by our government, including sanitising equipment and keeping parents socially distanced.”

While the latest lockdown has been pencilled in to last until December 2, James says there are concerns that grassroots sports could now be sidelined until mid-January.

“I am very fearful that the lockdown will continue up until the Christmas holidays,” he explained.

“This would mean coming back in January.

“And by then, with the weather, all of our facilities could be sodden and waterlogged, so even more games will be cancelled, leaving us without football for even longer.

“This will also have a massive, negative impact on parents, who will not only miss getting out of the house to do the drop-off, but will also be dealing with extremely sad and depressed children.

“Our local MPs and government ministers need to do a U-turn on this immediately, and allow outdoor grassroots sports to go ahead, or they will face a huge backlash.”

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