Grassroots football has been suspended since lockdown in the UK on 5 January with fixtures and training prohibited.
While team sport has been scarce due to Covid-19, there is now an end in sight with Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating that outdoor activities are the “best way to restore freedom while minimising risk”.
Johnson has outlined his roadmap for Britain’s exit from the ongoing coronavirus-enforced lockdown, with updates one week before each change of stage and five weeks between each stage.
From 29 March, outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed, with outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts allowed to reopen and organised adult and children’s sport, including grassroots football also able to return.
Under-18s school sport, including football, will be permitted from 8 March.
Stage 2 is pencilled in to begin from 12 April, which will see indoor leisure centres open (including gyms and swimming pools) open, while fans may be able to return to stadiums and arenas in stage 3 on 17 May with yet to be announced limits.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi discussed the return of outdoor sports, with some caution in the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown and the need to remain “alert”.
“The simple way to look at this is that outdoor is safer and therefore we prioritise versus indoor,” Zahawi told LBC.
“Outdoor sports – tennis, golf, outdoor organised team sports, grassroots football – will go back on March 29.”
Current regulations permit outdoor exercise, but only by yourself, with members from the same household or one just one other person from another household.
The Prime Minister has been advised by Edinburgh University’s Professor Mark Woolhouse to permit outdoor activity immediately.
“This virus very rarely transmits outdoors. So, quite honestly, outdoor activities that don’t involve close physical contact could be adopted now,” Professor Woolhouse, whose work feeds into the Sage committee’s sub-group Spi-M, told the Observer.
“That is not an argument to say we can have crowds back at football matches. But sports involving small numbers of players or sports for children: they could start safely today.”