Covid-19 & Sport 2020 – Where Are We At?

In the confusing times of ‘can we do this or that’ over six months on from an almost global lockdown was enforced here in the UK we are still non-the wiser on what happens next on when we can go and see many of our teams and athletes play.

With some local restrictions now in place and raised concerns over recent rises in Covid-19 with higher numbers of tests being implemented, we in Nottinghamshire are so far ‘ok’ to run our ‘limited’ lives but there are plenty of rules to abide and it can get awfully confusing when knowing what you can or cannot do.

In a bid to return to some sort of ‘normality’ as we hope to attend sporting fixtures sometime soon, we review our top teams and sports in detail on ‘what we know’ below so take it all in and let us put your mind at ease but please understand that this is ‘always changing’ so best to keep checking as things progress.

Football

The nations favourite game has been pretty much been split into two sectors… Can… and Can’t… In the ‘can’ section you can pretty much go and watch any of your local amateur and semi-pro teams play but in the ‘can’t’ division you will need to stay away if you are fans of Nottingham Forest, Mansfield Town, and for the time being Notts County.

The Football League (which Nottingham Forest & Mansfield Town are involved in) are looking to pilot test events this weekend to allow a small percentage of fans into grounds (the pilot events will be capped capacity of 1,000) with existing club season ticket holders only, those who will most-likely be selected into ballots in order to attend games.

As of yet matches in the football league are completely played behind closed-doors but for club staff and media and that will continue to be the case until pilot tests have completed. Hope is that ‘some’ supporters will be allowed back in to stadiums during October but percentages of fans being allowed through turnstiles will be very low and those fans who don’t have season tickets will have very minimal opportunity to see their teams play for the remainder of the year.

As for Notts County, the National League is hoping to start the new season on October 3rd with a safe return of fans. Crowds of 20-30% of ground capacity will potentially soon be able to attend but the league has asked the government to allow up to 1,000 spectators inside stadiums from October. Should this be declined the National League may review its start date as league chairman Brian Barwick stated “The National League restart depends upon crowds being allowed back in stadiums as live attendance is our clubs’ largest source of income.”

Below the National League and further down towards semi-pro and grassroots levels we have already seen limited capacity all ticket games at Basford United and Newark FC where there is larger demand to attend from supporters.

Clubs have capped their capacity at grounds often letting no more than 300 supporters inside venues below the National League level and it has not been irregular to see games in the opening weeks of their seasons with three figure crowds from the Northern Premier League, down towards the NCEL, Midland League, East Midlands Counties League, Central Midlands League and even NSL where most clubs don’t charge for access.

Whilst we advise you to check with your local football team to see if they are holding ticket only matches or whether you can pay on the gate, you should be able to at least go watch grassroots football in a safe environment should you wish to do so.

Cricket

As the village cricket season is almost over it was one of the first spectator sports that allowed unlimited numbers in attendance but at the county levels where Nottinghamshire play, 2020 has been pretty much a write off for fans as they have been asked to stay away from all games played this season.

There was hope by playing the T20 tournament towards the back end of the summer that Trent Bridge could see some much-needed attendances bringing in revenue but with the group stages of the Vitality Blast concluding this weekend, that unfortunately didn’t get to happen.

Hope is that next season things will get back to normal with the ECB stating worryingly that “The COVID-19 pandemic has left cricket facing its most significant challenge of the modern era. The game has already lost more than £100m, and the financial impact is likely to be £200m if there is further disruption next year, which many are expecting.”

Rugby Union

With many local rugby sides (including national level two Nottingham) last playing in March of this year it has been a frustrating time with no news on the new seasons ahead below the top-flight of the game.

Some clubs have started training with school programmes in place but as of yet the RFU haven’t commented about when their new season will start with the Gallagher Premiership still drawing to its conclusion from the 2019/20 campaign.

Ice Hockey

In some ways the early decision of the Elite League to postpone their 2019/20 season with immediate effect was the best decision made by any sporting organisation in the country as it provided clarity that didn’t leave clubs, players, staff and supporters in the lurch.

Since then, the Elite League had hoped to start a new season in December but that has now been put on hold and the likelihood is that there won’t be any Ice Hockey played in this country until 2021 at the earliest.

Nottingham Panthers and the Elite League teams rely heavily on their support through the gates and it is simply not feasible to start the sport back without fans so until venues in the UK can be something near capacity with those flocking back through the turnstiles the league and its teams are not likely to push for a start.

Basketball

Like Ice Hockey, Basketball is not yet at the stage it needs to be to allow full contact sport with fans to go ahead indoors, but like Rugby Union, it is currently allowing and encouraging skills, drills and training both indoors and outdoors.

Basketball England has a zero to five level programme which currently sits at level 2. Once the programme has finally been downgraded to zero clubs will be once again allowed to fully train and compete with supporters in attendance. Only then, sides like Nottingham Hoods and Nottingham Wildcats will return to action.

Hockey

The England Hockey Championships were played in Nottingham over the last two weekends involving a large number of clubs of all ages (with Beeston winning the finals in both men and womens’ 1st XI division) but with strict measures behind closed doors without supporters.

This weekend is the opening round of the England Hockey League season and whilst strict measures are still in place you should be able to watch your team locally but please check with all clubs before you travel.

*Main image @mansfieldtownfc matches at Field Mill since the summer have been played behind closed doors.

Leave a Reply