Catholic MP Damian Collins has backed calls from former Premier League star Robbie Savage to allow youth sports to continue through the new national lockdown.
The former Welsh international, who played for clubs including Manchester United, Leicester City, Birmingham City and Derby County, recently started an online petition calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Government to allow ‘supervised Covid secure youth team sports’ to continue through the lockdown, which is due to run from 5th November to 2ndDecember.
In his petition, which has reached well over 20,000 signatures, Mr Savage points out that sport plays an important role in both the physical and mental health and well-being of young people.
“Since the summer it has been shown that team sports can be organised in a Covid secure way,” he said. “The government is keeping schools open during proposed lockdown…We would ask that they also allow structured and supervised youth teams sports to continue as well.”
Mr Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, has backed Mr Savage’s calls, arguing that it is “absolutely right” that schools are staying open but if this is the case children should also be allowed to engage in sports.
“If we recognise that children are better off in school, even with Covid, then I think we should recognise that they’re better off doing grassroots sports than they are being stuck at home,” Mr Collins, who chaired the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee between October 2016 and January 2020, told Sky Sports News.
“We know the rate of infection in outdoor settings is lower than indoor ones, and the danger to children’s health is much lower from coronavirus.
“I think being allowed to take part in grassroots sports will be much better for the mental and physical health of young people.
“Whilst we all hope this lockdown is only for four weeks, there’s no guarantee it won’t be longer, particularly in the bigger cities in the north and in London. So it’s really important that we keep youth sport going.”
Mr Collins also urged the Government to clearly communicate to the public why rules, such as the restrictions on sports, are being introduced.
“I think people understand the idea of washing your hands, observing social distancing…those things make sense. People can do those things successfully playing golf or singles’ tennis, so why isn’t that allowed?
“What we need to be clearer in explaining to people is why a group of children can play football at school but not on Saturday mornings together. These are things where I think many people say, ‘I just don’t see how that makes any sense’.
“I think that’s the challenge that the Government’s got – to explain why these rules are being applied in this way.”
Mr Collins recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Oliver Dowden, urging the Government to reconsider its position on youth sport.
Responding to DCMS questions at the House of Commons last week, Mr Dowden seemed to make his stance clear, stating that grassroots sports will be among the first areas of society to reopen once it is deemed safe to do so.
“Until then, we have made sure that families can keep exercising throughout this lockdown so I would urge people to get out and get fit,” he added.
See Robbie Savage’s petition at: https://www.change.org/p/government-allow-supervised-covid-secure-youth-team-sports-to-continue-beyond-5th-november
Picture: Youngsters practice their football skills. (Matimix).