Grassroots football clubs get news they dreaded: No exemption from lockdown

It looks like the game is up for grass-roots football - and all other outdoor team sports... at least for the next four weeks.

An FA Vase game between AFC Uckfield and Holmesdale last weekend - but football at this level is banned for a month from Thursday / Picture: Mike Skinner
An FA Vase game between AFC Uckfield and Holmesdale last weekend - but football at this level is banned for a month from Thursday / Picture: Mike Skinner

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said he cannot make any exemptions to the rule that outdoor sport - apart from at elite level - should stop in the national lockdown lasting from November 5 to December 2.

He was responding to a question from Labour MP for Durham North, Kevan Jones, who pointed out many amateur sports clubs had made huge efforts to make sure their matches and meetings could be held safely.

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Johnson said: "I bitterly regret that we have to curtail for 28 days football clubs."

That appears to shut the door on hopes that non-elite football - which includes the Isthmian League, SCFL and local parks leagues - may somehow escape the month-long lockdown.

We have directly asked Oliver Dowden - secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport - to confirm whether football at all lower-league levels is off-limits from Thursday, but as of Tuesday morning we have yet to have a reply.

Sports including rugby and hockey had already accepted their fate - but golf bosses are still thought to be negotiating to allow some forms of their sport to continue.

It's a bitter blow to football clubs who have been welcoming crowds of up to 600 since August, with very few problems or issues reported. And it means that matches planned for tonight (Tues) and Wednesday evening will be the last for four weeks.

More news on this, plus reaction, will follow.