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London council scores own goal by banning football in park under Covid crackdown

A London council has been blasted by the government for a lack of ‘common sense’ after it set up metal barriers in front of goals in a park to stop children playing football.

Southwark council blocked the goals in Warwick Gardens in Peckham, south London, along with a sign that warned people not to touch hoops, goals or fences to stop transmission of the virus. 

However during England’s second lockdown, rules state that people from the same household can exercise together outdoors, including playing football in a park.

A London council has been blasted by the government for a lack of ‘common sense’ after it set up metal barriers in front of goals in a park to stop children playing football (pictured: a bench roped of in Brockwell Park earlier this year) 

Southwark council blocked the goals in Warwick Gardens in Peckham, south London, along with a sign that warned people not to touch hoops, goals or fences to stop transmission of the virus

Southwark council blocked the goals in Warwick Gardens in Peckham, south London, along with a sign that warned people not to touch hoops, goals or fences to stop transmission of the virus

Two people from two different households are also allowed to meet outside for exercise as long as they stay two metres apart.   

One Twitter user has branded the move ‘fascistic’, adding: ‘A lot of people walking through Warwick Gardens this morning looked horrified and upset by this.’

In response one government source criticised the move, telling The Telegraph: ‘We think common sense and proportionality should apply. We trust British people and do not want to stop the family kickabout.’ 

A sign put up by the council near the football pitch read: ‘We have reopened our sports courts in line with government guidelines but ask that you stay at home as much as possible.’ 

A sign put up by the council near the football pitch read: 'We have reopened our sports courts in line with government guidelines but ask that you stay at home as much as possible'. Pictured: a general view of Warwick Gardens

A sign put up by the council near the football pitch read: ‘We have reopened our sports courts in line with government guidelines but ask that you stay at home as much as possible’. Pictured: a general view of Warwick Gardens

One Twitter user has branded the move 'fascistic', adding: 'A lot of people walking through Warwick Gardens this morning looked horrified and upset by this'

One Twitter user has branded the move ‘fascistic’, adding: ‘A lot of people walking through Warwick Gardens this morning looked horrified and upset by this’

Southwark currently has one of the lowest coronavirus rates of any London borough, with just 111 new cases recorded in the week before the second national lockdown. 

Boris Johnson has recently come under fire from youth groups over the closure of grass-root sports facilities, particular for children, with many pointing out that the outdoor activities are vital for young people’s mental and physical health.

But the Prime Minister has said the restrictions will remain in place over fears that making an exception from the rules for children’s sport could put him under more pressure to change other rules. 

He said earlier this month: ‘Once you unpick at one thing, alas, the effectiveness of the whole package is compromised.

Boris Johnson has come under fire from youth groups over the closure of grass-root sports facilities, particular for children, with many pointing out that the outdoor activities are vital for young people's mental and physical health

Boris Johnson has come under fire from youth groups over the closure of grass-root sports facilities, particular for children, with many pointing out that the outdoor activities are vital for young people’s mental and physical health

‘It is difficult to take out one part of the Jenga block without disturbing the whole package.’ 

He added that the rules for stopping outdoor sport such as tennis and golf are one of the ways to reduce transmission of the virus, but some Tory MPs have said the ban is ‘ridiculous’.  

Southwark Council said: ‘We’re following restrictions put in place by the government. Our parks and open spaces remain available for people to exercise in a safe and socially distanced fashion.’    

A spokesman from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘Local authorities should take a proportionate approach in their decisions on free facilities open for public use given households can continue to exercise together,’ the spokesman said.

‘We urge people to keep fit as much as possible during the current national measures and have been clear that grass-roots sport will return as soon as it is safe to do so.’   

Youth football is played by hundreds of thousands of children each weekend during the football season, with as many as 60,000 teams across England. 

What are the Government’s rules on sports in this second lockdown? 

Under the new lockdown rules indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres, gyms and sports facilities have been closed in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres have also been closed.

The ban includes archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks.

As part of the new proposals, grassroots sport, including youth football have also been banned. 

But elite level sport, such as Premier League football, has been allowed to continue behind closed doors.

Non-elite football clubs were cleared to compete in the first round of the FA Cup last weekend under strict testing protocols.

A petition has been launched urging a Government rethink on the youth grassroots sports ban.

The petition, launched by Matt Brodie and directed at Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is aiming to collect 150,000 signatures. 

On the petition’s page, it says: ‘On October 31, Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown in England until December 2.

‘It is well known that outdoor transmission of the Covid 19 is minimal. All grassroots football clubs have guidelines & processes in place to make football safe.

‘This petition is to fight to keep grassroots football for YOUTH going throughout the new restrictions.

‘Benefits include physical health maintained or increased during restrictions, mental health maintained or increased due to the social aspect of sport and looking forward to the activity each week. 

‘It also improves parents’ mental health. Taking your child and watching your child will support adult mental health.’ 

Meanwhile, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, Julian Knight, has been among those calling for golf courses and tennis courts to be allowed to stay open.

And former DCMS committee chair Damian Collins is among a group of six MPs who have called on the Government to allow under-18s to continue participating in outdoor grassroots sports during the lockdown.

In a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, the MPs wrote: ‘Young people will currently be allowed to continue with sport at school, and we believe that the risks to the spread of coronavirus from outdoor grassroots youth sport would be minimal. 

‘There would however be clear and lasting benefits for these young people if the Government could support this.’

However, Mr Dowden tweeted: ‘Unfortunately we need to pause grassroots sport outside school to reduce the transmission risk from households mixing,’ he tweeted.

‘As soon as we can resume this, we will.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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