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Bury St Edmunds Golf Club manager Mike Verhelst reacts to 'stupid' decision while Bury Town and Needham Market FC to put players on furlough as rugby club chief left 'devastated' at losing season




Figureheads from the area’s sports clubs are having to count the cost of a second lockdown on their operations in eight months – with rising fears it could be for longer than just a month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to impose tighter restrictions to bring down the coronavirus infection rate from yesterday until at least December 2 has resulted in all non-elite sport, bar angling, being suspended across the country once again.

But the manager of Bury St Edmunds Golf Club has branded the decision to shut down their socially-distanced sport as ‘stupid’ and ‘illogical’.

Manager Mike Verhelst is not happy with being unable to keep Bury St Edmunds Golf Club’s course open while people can fish and walk togetherPicture: Mark Westley
Manager Mike Verhelst is not happy with being unable to keep Bury St Edmunds Golf Club’s course open while people can fish and walk togetherPicture: Mark Westley

Mike Verhelst said he was supportive of a full lockdown but was not happy with being a victim of ‘a piecemeal one’.

He said: “You can still go fishing and go out in a car and go for a walk with someone who is not from your household but you cannot take a golf stick with you. I think it is absolutely stupid.

“It took everyone in our industry by surprise, especially after the government wanted us to start very quickly out of the first lockdown.

Bury Town are 90 minutes away from the first round proper of the FA Cup. Pictured are chairman Russell Ward (left) and manager Ben Chenery (right)Picture: Mark Westley (42813484)
Bury Town are 90 minutes away from the first round proper of the FA Cup. Pictured are chairman Russell Ward (left) and manager Ben Chenery (right)Picture: Mark Westley (42813484)

“I have nothing against fishing and I do it but how can you go fishing but not play golf? It is illogical.”

He said he also felt for the tennis clubs, who like golf, lost their battle to be seen as part of socially distanced exercise with one other person.

Bury Town FC chairman Russell Ward said he would have also favoured a full lockdown, including the schools, where he feels transmission has been a problem locally.

The club’s success in the FA Cup has been partly responsible for the fourth-placed Blues having only completed four of their league matches, half of what some other clubs have played.

Needham Market FC will lose income from their 3G pitch bookingsPicture: contributed
Needham Market FC will lose income from their 3G pitch bookingsPicture: contributed

And Ward, who is putting all their players on the furlough scheme again, fears getting the season finished by the FA’s May cut-off datecould be a real issue.

“If we are not playing again by the middle of December we could have a real problem finishing the season,” he said. “You have to bear in mind we will probably have some bad weather.

“If we get to January and still haven’t started we may need a massive rethink.”

Bury St Edmunds Golf Club's course, like others around the county and country, is now left emptyPicture: Philip Vince
Bury St Edmunds Golf Club's course, like others around the county and country, is now left emptyPicture: Philip Vince

Needham Market FC chairman Keith Nunn feels they will not be playing matches again until 2021.

“It is very unfortunate but not unexpected,” he said of the second lockdown, in which their full-time academy is set to be able to continue to operate classroom learning.

Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club chairman David Reid is trying to remain upbeat after having to shut down the GK IPA Haberden's facilities once againPicture: Mark Westley
Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club chairman David Reid is trying to remain upbeat after having to shut down the GK IPA Haberden's facilities once againPicture: Mark Westley

“Obviously we will not be playing again until December 5 at the earliest. My guess is it will be in the new year and it is just something we have to accept.

“It is a shame as we have made a brilliant start to the season, winning the Suffolk Premier Cup and being unbeaten in the league so it is very disappointing.”

But despite losing the revenue from their 3G pitch he is not too worried about the financial aspect of this lockdown.

“Financially we are better off than most and the furlough scheme is back in (for contracted players) so it will be ok,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club are still digesting last Friday’s news that all competitive adult leagues from tier 3 downwards have been cancelled for the 2020/21 season .

Head coach and director of rugby Nick Wakley said: “I feel pretty devastated to be honest but it was always going to be a nightmare trying to restart the league when we have games in Guernsey, Redruth and Leicester.”

But he added: “We need to come together as a club, work out how these adapted games and touch tournaments can benefit the club and players.

“This club has been through the tragedy of a plane crash. This pandemic is something we will get through.”

Chairman David Reid said: “The lockdown is a bit of a bind as we had just got into a bit of a rhythm with the Friday nights and particularly with the junior sessions. But we are already talking about continuing online like we did in the summer lockdown period.”

He said good progress is being made with getting players to extend their stays.

“It is not all doom and gloom,” he said.

“Yes, financially it is a bit precarious but we do not have the full impact of semi-professional costs and expenditure, so that has taken a bit of pressure off.”

He thanked their sponsors and members for their continued support.