Grassroots Sport

Did we take sport for granted?

This crisis has stopped us playing sport for now — will it change how we think about it in future?

On 6th March, we at Playfinder received the first cancellation of a booking due to coronavirus; on 9th March the first sports venue closed, a school; on 16th March the FA banned football at all levels, and finally on the 23rd March unmanned park tennis courts closed their gates to the public.

If you had told me this would happen I would have guessed it was some sci-fi plot — which, it turns out, it is — but this is the situation we are in and it has affected everything that we know. Our worlds have shrunk as we focus on personal issues like our families and health; while wider issues such as the NHS, government support for people and businesses, and the country’s resolve occupy national discourse. In being forced to stay at home, we are learning what we once took for granted.

Playing sport is without a doubt one of those things. With 21 million adults aged 16+ in the UK participating in sport at least once a week, it is a small joy that provides so much to so many. It keeps us fit, gets us outside, it provides moments of victory (as well as failure) and, perhaps most importantly, it brings us together.

Though playing keepie-uppie in the kitchen might be providing your footie fix at the moment, we are all longing to once again be able to play with friends and opponents, colleagues and family, to revel in that match-winning moment, enjoy the bear hugs and high fives, feel the sweat dripping from our forehead and, occasionally, go for a drink after the game.

But sport is not only an activity but an industry, and one that has come to a grinding halt. The tens of thousands of people who work tirelessly to support sports players, from groundsmen to coaches, have had their livelihoods put at risk while our movement is restricted. Hundred-year old clubs face the same uncertainty as local leisure centres, public pools and school pitches. With the postponement of the Six Nations, Wimbledon, Euro 2020 and the Olympics, never more have we realised — and appreciated — the enormous role sport plays in our lives.

Here at Playfinder, we don’t know when we will take our next booking or when the next game will begin, but we know it will be a great moment — the starting gun on a new chapter. And when that time comes let’s savour the sun / wind / rain on our faces, the whip of a racquet, and the roar of pitch-side supporters as we relish our freedom to come together and play sport.

And let’s also be alive to the struggle that sports venues will go through to recover. This won’t be easy for anyone but together we can help them keep the lights on, the lines painted and the gates open so we can share those sporting moments with fellow players and support an industry that brings so much pleasure to so many.