Coronavirus lockdown: Children’s grassroots sport to be halted – culture secretary

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Children’s grassroots sport played outside of school will be suspended during England’s four-week lockdown, says culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

There were calls for youth sports to be exempt when the new restrictions come into effect on Thursday.

But Dowden says children sport would only be permitted in school.

“Unfortunately we need to pause grassroots sport outside school to reduce the transmission risk from households mixing,” he tweeted.external-link

“As soon as we can resume this, we will.”

Earlier on Monday, former Wales midfielder Robbie Savage urged the government to allow grassroots sport for children to continue as long as schools remain open for their “physical and mental wellbeing”.

“I would totally understand that if school were to be closed then grassroots sport should run parallel to that,” Savage, who coaches youth football, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“There is real concern – how do you explain taking away playing football three or more times a week when they are still going to school? It’s heartbreaking.”

Youth Sports Trust chief executive Ali Oliver told BBC Sport that under a quarter of secondary schools do not offer physical education.

“To lose some grassroots clubs will leave us with a legacy of a generation who are inactive and unable to find a way into sport,” she said.

Former Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee chair Damian Collins wrote to Dowden asking the government to allow youth sport to continue in England after 5 November.

He also called on the government to extend the definition of elite sport to include academy players at Premier League clubs and those in development centres such as the England Rugby developing player programme and Sport England’s talented athlete scholarship scheme.

“Young people will currently be allowed to continue with sport at school, and we believe that the risks to the spread of the coronavirus from outdoor grassroots youth sport would be minimal,” he said, in a letter also signed by former sports ministers Tracey Crouch and Helen Grant.

“There would, however, be clear and lasting benefits for these young people if the government could support this.”

Elite sports has been allowed to continue behind closed doors, but leisure centres, gyms will close, as will other indoor and outdoor leisure facilities are closing.

On Monday, speaking in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out any exemptions.

But the FA says it “remains in regular dialogue” with the government over what the new lockdown measures mean for “non-elite” football in England.

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