Government should allow grassroots youth sport to continue for children’s health, says Damian Collins

Government should allow grassroots youth sport to continue for children’s health, says Damian Collins

November 3, 2020

Grassroots youth sport should be able to continue throughout the Government’s planned second national lockdown for the benefit of children’s mental and physical health, says Damian Collins MP.

Collins, who chaired the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee between October 2016 and January 2020, has written to the Secretary of State for DCMS, Oliver Dowden, urging the Government to reconsider its position.

At present, grassroots youth sport will be suspended from Thursday, provided MPs approve the Government’s proposals for a second lockdown on Wednesday.

But Collins says the fact the Government are planning to keep schools open throughout the lockdown means children’s sport should be allowed to continue, too.

He told Sky Sports News: “The big difference between the lockdown we’re going to have in the next few weeks and the one we had in the spring and summer is that the schools are going to be allowed to stay open.

“That’s absolutely right, because it’s important for children’s wellbeing, as well as their education, that they’re back in school.

“But 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.

“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.”

Collins – who has been a Conservative MP since 2010 – also urged the Government to clearly communicate to the public why they will not be able to play sport during a new lockdown.

He said: “I think the issue is that people really need to understand what the rules are and why they’re 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.”

‘EFL clubs owe £80m in unpaid taxes’

As well as writing to the Government regarding youth sport, Collins has also been supporting calls for English Football League (EFL) clubs to receive financial support while they continue to play in empty stadiums due to coronavirus.

The EFL has been in talks with the Premier League for months regarding a bailout, but Collins says the Government should now step in to prevent clubs ceasing to exist.

He said: “I’m extremely concerned. I was on a call on Friday with some other members of Parliament and Rick Parry [EFL chairman], and he said that if there’s no package in place, at least 10 clubs won’t make their payroll in November and that clubs will fail before Christmas.

“The EFL doesn’t have the resources to support those clubs on its own. I had information back from the Government last week that says clubs in the EFL owe nearly £80m in overdue taxes. If they’re not paying their taxes, they’re probably not paying other bills.

“So we can see that the sort of money that’s been talked about so far – £20-50m – is not enough to bail out the EFL. I think this is going to require the Government getting involved, either with grants or guaranteeing loans or even giving a holiday on tax payments. That would be sensible.

“If the clubs go bust, the Government has already lost £80m in uncollected taxes and it will probably lose more.

“We shouldn’t be looking at these clubs as any other business but essential parts of their communities that have been there for over 100 years in many cases.

“We’ve recognised the cultural value of theatre and the arts and music venues – I think it’s time we recognised the cultural value of football clubs. You can’t run a football club with no income.”

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