The Angling Trust is pleased that the Government has confirmed the resumption of grassroots sports from today (Wednesday, 2nd December) but disappointed that the Government’s travel guidance has not included sport or outdoor recreation as an acceptable reason to leave or enter a Tier 3 area. This means their much vaunted pledge to allow the resumption of grassroots sports in all tiers has turned out to be rather hollow.
By not including travel for sport, thousands of sporting enthusiasts, covering around a third of the country, could find themselves unable to compete in regional competitions or national qualifiers for fear of breaching the Covid travel guidelines. Both the Angling Trust and England Golf have written to DCMS Secretary of State Oliver Dowden calling for the travel advice to be amended.
In a recent Government press statement Oliver Dowden said:
“This is a big step forward for sport. Bringing grassroots sport back was my number one priority so I’m pleased we are reopening sports and gyms in every tier, in recognition of the significant health benefits.”
The reality is for residents in Tier 3 areas that their return to grassroots sport is confined within their own local authority areas making many competitive activities, which require an element of travel, simply unviable. The Government’s current travel guidance states:
“…avoid travelling to other parts of the UK, including for overnight stays other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.”
The amendment suggested by the Angling Trust and England Golf would add the words [organised sport and outdoor recreation] which would include match fishing and golf tournaments.
Whilst club matches and open competitions can run in all tiers, the Government’s new shifting system of tiered restrictions makes it unviable to run national competitions fairly without falling foul of the travel guidance against entering or leaving a Tier 3 area. Qualifying matches could only continue for competitors in Tiers 1 and 2 which would be unfair. Even if special Tier 3 qualifiers were organised, these would be restricted to local authority areas with a Tier 3 designation which are subject to a review every two weeks, making forward planning impossible. Unless the travel guidance is changed, qualifying for a national final from Tier 3 would be pointless since these competitors would technically be unable to leave their area to take part.
The Angling Trust Winter Leagues are part way through but the current travel restrictions make many of these problematic due to the wide areas from which the teams are drawn. However, should circumstances and Government guidance change it may be possible to resume the programme.
Martin Salter, Head of Policy at the Angling Trust commented:
“The Government clearly hasn’t thought this through properly as it’s a nonsense to think that competitive grassroot sports, like golf, angling and many others, can operate properly if confined within tightly drawn local council boundaries. It’s one thing being restricted to an entire county but quite another if people are told they shouldn’t leave a built up urban area to take part in a safe, socially distanced sport like fishing.
“You can’t have many grassroots sports without grass and we certainly can’t expect anglers in these areas to welcome or respect travel guidance that is illogical and unfair. For many outdoor sports people in Tier 3 the new regime is actually worse than the recent lockdown.”
Jamie Cook, Angling Trust Chief Executive, said:
“I want to be clear that Club and Open matches remain entirely permissible within all three tiers. However, in common with other responsible national governing sporting bodies the Angling Trust cannot be seen at this time to be organising events which would result in travel into and out of Tier 3 areas. And we certainly cannot continue to run national competitions culminating in a final where qualifiers from a third of the country could not attend. This would be monstrously unfair.
“Therefore, it is with regret that I must announce the suspension of all national Angling Trust competitions for two months or until travel guidance is amended, when the situation will be reviewed. This aligns with the new tier restrictions which expire on February 3rd.”
The Angling Trust will be contacting all participants and automatically roll over all ticket monies for postponed events or offer refunds where cancellations prove to be permanent. A review in early February of a hopefully improving situation would allow for the resumption of the Winter Leagues, Silverfish, Pike Championships and Fishomania. We will continue to review our programme of competition and update our competition pages with any events we are able to run compliantly.”
Andre Grandjean, Chairman of the AT Coarse Competitions Committee, said:
“The AT Competitions Committee have discussed this at length since the new tiers and restrictions were announced and we are in agreement that it would be totally irresponsible to continue with running matches that may encourage participants to travel across Tier 3 boundaries. It was also considered grossly unfair on many, that matches in Tiers 1 and 2 could go ahead and matches in Tier 3 were either restricted or cancelled. Therefore, we have come to the only rational and fairest conclusion possible and that is to postpone all Angling Trust matches until we can see a clearer path ahead.
“Match fishing is permitted in all areas on a local basis, you can still compete in the sport we all love. Take care and stay safe.”