England Athletics issues joint letter to UK Government

We have today joined together with British Cycling and British Triathlon to ask Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to permit certain sports activities to continue during the new lockdown period starting on Thursday [5 November]. Specific to athletics and running, this is namely small outdoor groups and club-led activity, which have been taking place successfully since June, and coaching sessions for young and disabled people.

The joint letter, co-signed by England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones, referenced Sport England’s latest Active Lives figures, published last month, which showed that from mid-March to mid-May, numbers participating in running, athletics and multi-sport activity rose from 7.3million to 7.5million.

It highlighted that since June: “…we have, largely thanks to the work of volunteers, been able to reintroduce group runs, club activity, adapted competitions and coaching sessions, and given that all activities take place outdoors, participants are able to maintain appropriate social distancing at all times and we believe that the risk of transmission through taking part is limited.”

It added: “While running or training alone, with members of their household or with one other friend will suit many people, we know that so many others – those who rely on the support and encouragement of a friendly group, or may lack the confidence to go out alone – will simply stop altogether.

“Figures from Active Lives showed that during the lockdown, levels of reported happiness fell and anxiety rose sharply, impacting women, the elderly and people with disabilities most. Given the darker days and more inclement weather we should expect this month, we fear that these trends could be felt even more starkly during this new period of restrictions, and prohibiting group activities will deny millions of people the right to be active at a time when they need it most.

“We know that sport must play its part in this national effort, and we fully accept that as governing bodies we must play our part while the rest of the country is being asked to make such enormous sacrifices in their own lives. However, we also believe that we have a duty to enable people to lead healthy, active lives during this period of extreme mental toil – particularly when, as we have demonstrated over the course of this year, it can be done safely.”