Thank you for contacting me about sports during the coronavirus epidemic.
This period is incredibly challenging for us all, and I thank everyone for their efforts in complying with the restrictions that have been brought into force across the country. I know how hard it has been.
As of today people are required to stay at home except for specific purposes, one of which is to exercise outdoors or visit an outdoor public place. This can be done with the people you live with, with your support bubble or, when on your own, with one person from another household. Children under school age, as well as those dependent on round-the-clock care such as those with severe disabilities, who are with their parents will not count towards the limit on two people meeting outside. Subject to these restrictions, there is no limit to how much exercise people can take.
As part of the effort to reduce day-to-day contact with other people and thereby reduce the spread of the infection, the Government has, however, ordered certain businesses and venues to close. In addition to non-essential retail venues, these do include indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks.
There is no exemption for organised team sports, however elite sport, which takes place in rigorously controlled environments, will be allowed to continue behind closed doors as currently and there is no exemption for children's activities, although I have been assured that sport or PE can continue in schools so children will be able to stay active.
I can understand your frustration that facilities have been ordered to close, and I fully appreciate the vital contribution they make to exercise and health. On Monday, I asked the Prime Minister to reconsider the blanket ban on sports and gave the example of golf, which can be easily enjoyed while social distancing. Similar arguments can be made for tennis, archery, and angling, where people are not in close proximity. I think these and similar sports should continue for people’s physical and mental wellbeing. The Prime Minister, however, repeated that the restrictions are part of a package of measures designed to slow the spread of coronavirus and lifting any might have an adverse impact. Analysis of what should and should not be included could be endless, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.
You can read my question and the Prime Minister’s response here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-11-02/debates/6AF57346-80F3-491D-AA67-9EF31B9B3B26/Covid-19Update#contribution-C4716F3C-B359-4AB0-8D8A-E481E0095799
I fully appreciate the impact that these closures will have on sports facilities and clubs. That is why I welcome the measures the Government has set out to support employers to retain workers even if they cannot afford to pay them, so that they can continue to work where they can and be paid at least 80 per cent of their salaries up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.