In Brief

Grassroots sport in crisis: ‘protect indoor sport’ or lose a generation of players

Netball, badminton, basketball, volleyball and table tennis governing bodies call for support

Grassroots sport in the UK is facing a major crisis with netball, badminton and basketball among the activities fearing for their future. 

Sports that are played indoors are “still in limbo” as facilities remain closed due to the coronavirus restrictions, The Guardian reports. Governing bodies warn there’s a possibility the sports could collapse and have called on the UK government to provide support to help stay afloat. 

Netball was enjoying a resurgence, with increased participation numbers across the UK, but the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic could see “50% of the game” lost if indoor facilities don’t reopen. 

Katy Ritchie, England Netball’s head of development, said: “Our participation levels were record breaking, we had 1.6m women and girls playing netball. Fast forward to after Covid-19 hits and now the sport is at risk in all areas.

“We could lose 50% of the game if we don’t reopen. There will be significant ramifications for netball but, also, we’re such a key player in participation it will have a broader impact too.

“One of the things we’re really passionate about is body confidence in teenage girls and we know that girls don’t like to play outside where they can be seen. 

“For Muslim women, their faith doesn’t allow them to work out where they can be seen by men so unless we get some indoor facilities open, these women won’t resume any form of activity.”

‘Protect indoor sport’

Badminton England chief executive Adrian Christy has also warned that grassroots sport could lose a “generation of players” because of the pandemic. 

He told The Daily Telegraph: “Two thirds of leisure facilities are closed and remain shut, with no real clear roadmap as to when they will be open. Badminton is played by four million people but we have hit a brick wall until this is resolved.

“There are 232 facilities around the country that are currently not able to open and, for us, there’s 24,000 badminton courts in this country so it’s about 16,000 courts are currently not open. What we don’t want to see over a period is a generation of players lost to sport. We don’t want to see that habit broken.”

Badminton England, England Netball, Basketball England, Volleyball England and Table Tennis England have issued a joint statement calling on the government to “protect indoor sports halls from being sacrificed as overflow gyms, or, in some cases, not reopening at all”.

The statement said: “If these practices continue it is expected that two in three indoor facilities will remain unusable into the autumn for the 2.4 million people who play indoors sports regularly.

“Indoor facilities are vital to sports, such as badminton, which reach into every community irrespective of physical ability, age, gender or ethnicity. 

“These sports provide inclusive environments for a great many, particularly those who cannot get involved in other forms of physical activity due to ability or access.”

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