Outdoor sport is set to return on the 29th of March. Grassroots rugby, football, American football, hockey, cricket and many more sports are set to resume training. However, will it be the same for all sports, will the enthusiasm still be there to train twice a week and play on a Saturday? Or will Covid have an effect on participants and their drive to play a competitive sport?
Grassroots rugby players haven’t seen competitive rugby for over a year now, along with this rugby wasn’t able to resume full-contact due to the issues with the contact of players in areas like the scrums and rucks.
This isn’t the same for a sport like golf where social distancing is constant throughout unless you’re good enough to land it on the green of course. Before the second lockdown, a study carried out by Sports Marketing Surveys’ (SMS), revealed that 80 of around 200 golf clubs used showed an increase in rounds played in England, Scotland and Wales compared to October 2019.
This is not the case for rugby and the fear within the Rugby Football Union. Cornwall’s Rugby Union board member and team reporter Bill Hooper spoke about the fears of numbers with the return of rugby: “There are concerns about numbers at clubs, especially senior sides. There are lots of players that also play cricket, so there are concerns that many will concentrate on cricket and give rugby a miss until next season. We will leave it to clubs to decide what they want to do and provide support as and where required.”
Cricket has also seen a decline in participation. A survey done by Sporting England came to the conclusion that as of May 2020, 294 thousand adults in England played cricket on a monthly basis. In 2016 there were approximately 364 thousand cricket players participating on a monthly basis in England.
Will another year of Covid see that decline get worse? It’s certainly a fear from Cornwall Cricket’s Joe Skinner who said in regard to the return to cricket: “Cricket has faced many challenges over the pandemic like many activities, financial, will players and volunteers return.
“It’s looking positive in regard to adult players, we have gained a new team with the return of Foxhole CC, but it is volunteers and junior players where we have our main concern at the moment, especially volunteers, you can have juniors wanting to play cricket but if you have not got the coaches and junior coordinators then you have no junior activity. We hope that parents and club players will see the value in helping young people engage with the sport.”
Right now, with the end in sight in regard to lockdown, the social interaction outdoor sports provides could be vital in engaging members of the public and helping them get their lives back on track. Furthermore, with mental health being one of the most important topics in the nation right now, the return of sport should be the bridge that helps people express their feelings. We look forward to the return of sport, not just in Cornwall, but the country as a whole.