Bury St Edmunds sports club and people give their reaction to the third national lockdown
It was an all-too-familiar situation facing the area’s sports clubs and providers once again this week as they were ordered to cease all activities for a third national lockdown in the fight against Covid-19.
Alarming infection rates, partly sparked by a significantly more transmissible strain, led the Government to prohibit all non-elite sport until at least mid-February, bar an exemption for disabled participants.
Tier 4 restrictions, which came into force in Suffolk and Norfolk on Boxing Day, had already halted adult team sports including hockey, football and rugby.
But golf and tennis, as well as under-18s sport, had been able to resume following on from their November lockdown.
Like others in the area, Risbygate Sports Club in Bury St Edmunds had only been operating their tennis facilities for singles, with stringent safety measures in place.
The club’s tennis section secretary, Helen Stacy, labelled the decision to shut their sport and golf down as ‘crazy’ and ‘illogical’.
She said: “It is very frustrating as if you are allowed to exercise outdoors with one other person why not running around hitting a ball with a net separating you? It is possible to use two sets of balls (to serve).
“If you are running or walking with someone you are likely to be closer than two metres.
“We have got a guy who is 89 and relies on tennis for his exercise and will now not be getting any.
“I had someone say ‘can I go down and practise my serve alone?’ And I had to say ‘no, as everything has to be shut down’. You can’t even use a hitting wall by yourself. It is crazy and there is no logic to it.”
Golf courses in Bury, Flempton, Fornham St Genevieve, Stowmarket and Thetford had empty courses as of Tuesday, having been as busy as they were permitted to be over the festive period after being shut through November.
“Firstly, it is disappointing golf cannot continue,” said The Suffolk GC’s director of golf Steve Hall. “If you can go for a walk around a park with an individual why can you not hit a ball round?
“It is tough and we have frozen all memberships so we are not charging anyone and we cannot wait to get going again.”
For Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club and others, December had brought real hope their players could be back playing an adapted contact form of the 15-a-side game early in the new year, having been sidelined since March.
There were plans for The Wolfpack to play a mini season in the NCA Cup, which would have included games against higher-league neighbours Cambridge and Bishop’s Stortford, to replace their abandoned full National League 2 South 2020/21 campaign, from January 23.
But a meeting of the RFU competitions board on Monday decided to pull the plug on the regionalised cluster league plans.
Bury chairman David Reid said it did not come as a surprise, with the back-drop of the figures.
He said: “Maybe we could get some local fixtures in still but from my perspective we just need to focus our aim on next season.
“We normally shut down at the end of April/May but perhaps in March or April we could start pre-season training and run it through to September.
“People have been very good with renewing their subs and we want to give them as much value in terms of coaching and training as we can.”
Although they were permitted to continue for U18s under Tier 4, the club had aligned it with schools.
Under November’s lockdown angling was the only sport to continue, and a late reprieve has come in again (see page 68).
While professional football clubs such as Ipswich Town can continue behind closed doors under the elite umbrella that includes horse racing, all non-league football from Steps 3 down has been halted, now also including U18s.