LOGO: Keep Kids Active in Lockdown
The sports minister has admitted concern over the lack of physical activity and sport for children during the second lockdown.
Nigel Huddleston, speaking in the wake of huge support for Telegraph Sport’s “Keep Kids Active in Lockdown” campaign, recognised the situation was “really frustrating”.
“I wish we had more sports activity open but we want to do it as quickly as possible and it is nowhere near as bad as the first lockdown,” he said.
Huddleston promised grass-roots sport was “at the front of the queue” to return as “a priority area” when the new tier system is introduced from Dec 2.
However, he defended the Government’s decision to refuse to give organised sport an exemption from the restrictions. “As a parent, I would not want to let my kids out if I was not confident it was safe,” he said. Sport would return “as soon as we see the evidence that the numbers are starting to come down”.
“We are working with Sport England to have a clear programme of getting sporting activity up but I can’t give you a date, only a hope, that we are able to do so as quickly as possible,” he said.
The nightmare scenario for grass-roots youth sport is that a fresh lockdown is ordered in January if restrictions are eased at Christmas.
“I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals, but I can say the sincere commitment is that we want sport at grass-roots level to be back as soon as possible because it is a priority area,” Huddleston said.
“We have the slight silver lining that the kids are at school and are able to participate in sport at school, which was not the case in the first lockdown.”
Labour’s Alison McGovern had earlier quizzed Huddleston about the lack of sport available during lockdown. She said sports in general had been “messed about” by the Government.
The shadow sports minister said: “Given its place in keeping us healthy, we did need a swifter response than this and that’s particularly the case when we see how sport has been messed about.”
She also urged the minister to say when grass-roots sports would be allowed to restart, and also to confirm whether men’s and women’s sports would receive equal funding.
Huddleston said: “In terms of reopening, she is absolutely right to highlight the priority that is a shared goal across both sides of the chamber in terms of opening as soon as it is safe to do so. That goes for grass-roots and it goes for elite sports.”
On equal funding for men’s and women’s sports, he added: “There will be an appropriate proportion for women’s sports.”