What sport can I still play? How second lockdown affects golf, tennis, football, gyms, swimming and other recreational activities

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Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools

Indoor and outdoor sports facilities will largely close. This includes all leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools, as well as dance studios, stables and riding centres, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges.

The sector is lobbying the Government to rethink and keep facilities open. Leisure centres, swimming pools and gyms have argued that they should be classified as ‘essential services’ because of their role in boosting the physical and mental health of their customers. The sector will also now amplify calls for a sports recovery fund and have said that 300,000 jobs are at risk.

Grass-roots outdoor sport

Grass-roots football and non-league football have not been specifically referenced. However, the new guidelines do clearly state that people can only exercise outdoors with members of their own household or one other person. It is also stressed that youth clubs and groups will need to cease during this period.

The Football Association has said that it is “awaiting further information before we can confirm how this may affect non-elite football across England”. The expectation as of Sunday morning is that all amateur team sports will be banned. The guidance throws the FA Cup first round, due to be played on Nov 6-9, into doubt. Nine of the 40 FA Cup first round ties involve teams from what are deemed ‘non-elite leagues’. 

What about ‘socially-distanced’ sports like tennis, golf and fishing?

Golf courses and driving ranges are specifically mentioned in the list of facilities that must close. All indoor tennis must also now stop but the Lawn Tennis Association has said that as “a socially-distanced sport with the net as a natural barrier, we are making the case to Government for outdoor tennis activity for two individuals from different households to continue”. Fishing, which was the first sport to return following the previous lockdown, is expected to continue according to its strict protocols to maintain social distancing.

Exercising outdoors

Outdoor exercise such as walking, cycling and jogging will be allowed in public places such as parks, beaches and the countryside. Anyone can also exercise with members of their own household – or outdoors with one person from another household – although not both at the same time. Children’s outdoor playgrounds will remain open but households cannot mix in private gardens.

Elite sport

Elite sports, such as Premier League football, will be allowed to continue. This is partly because they have each already established their own strict Covid protocols. There is also regular testing in the Premier League, although this is not the policy lower down the professional pyramid or all in all other elite sports.

In previous guidance, an ‘elite athlete’ has been defined as an individual who derives a living from competing in their sport. The National League in football, down to its two regional divisions, was previously regarded as an elite sport and able to complete its 2019-20 season.

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