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Sudbury sports clubs 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 the wider Essex area on Boxing Day, had already halted adult team sports including hockey, football and rugby.

Local sport has once again been suspended as the government looks to stem the spread of Covid-19
Local sport has once again been suspended as the government looks to stem the spread of Covid-19

But golf and tennis, as well as under-18s sport, had been able to resume following the November lockdown.

Sudbury Tennis Club’s LED floodlit artificial clay courts in Quay Lane had seen members get back playing under restrictions, with only singles if not involving household members, over the past month. They had even seen their membership swell to near 90 with new applications since Christmas.

Club secretary Helen ‘Squash’ Jackson said: “It is one of those really sad things but there is no use complaining about it as it is what it is and you’ve just got to deal with what you’ve got.”

Sudbury Tennis Club was able to stay open under Tier 4 restrictions but has now had to close its courts Picture: Mecha Morton
Sudbury Tennis Club was able to stay open under Tier 4 restrictions but has now had to close its courts Picture: Mecha Morton

Newton Green Golf Club and Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Club both had empty courses as of Tuesday, having been as busy as they were permitted to be over the festive period.

Stoke-by-Nayland’s director of golf Karl Hepple, who only got to allow their 770 members back for a month, said: “To be honest that has been the most difficult part for us; you are open then you are closed, then you are open then closed again. From a greenkeeping perspective it makes it almost impossible and on top of that when we have been open we are seeing demand like never before.”

For Sudbury Rugby Club, 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 them to play a mini league season, to replace their abandoned full London 1 North 2020/21 campaign, against Colchester, North Walsham, Shelford and Cambridge II, from January 23. But a meeting of the RFU competitions board on Monday decided to pull the plug on the regionalised cluster league plans.

The 18th tee at Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Club - the course is now empty once again
The 18th tee at Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Club - the course is now empty once again

Sudbury playing chair Simon Dain said: “It is not a happy picture but it was not entirely unexpected either.

“Realistically we all knew deep down when we were coming into the winter it was going to get harder and harder.

“We are really disappointed from a playing perspective but the players have been very good and we had still been getting 20 to 25 turning up at training.

“From a club perspective, like any other club or business, you struggle when you’re not having any income.”

Although they were permitted to continue for under-18s under Tier 4 restrictions, the club had decided against doing.

Under November’s lockdown angling was the only sport allowed to continue but the fishing freedom has gone this time around (see page 38).

While local football clubs such as Colchester United and Ipswich Town can continue to play, all non-league football from Steps 3 downwards - including AFC Sudbury, Hadleigh United, Long Melford, Cornard United and Halstead Town has been halted, now also including U18s.

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