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Unprecedented response to coronavirus pandemic sees sport come to grinding halt

Whether you agree with the decision to postpone all sporting activity or not, one thing everyone can agree on is that ‘it is unlike anything we’ve experienced before’.

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the country’s grassroots sports, with governing body after governing body and league after league making the decision to postpone all competition and training in the past week, in light of advice from the government to avoid social contact and mass gatherings.

Football, rugby, hockey, table tennis and squash leagues have all been suspended mid-season while the start of the summer sport calendar is in doubt following the number of high-profile events cancelled – including the 2020 Women’s Tour in June – with the cricket season due to begin on April 18.

Coronavirus. (31878044)
Coronavirus. (31878044)

“It’s unlike anything we’ve experienced before,” Haverhill Cricket Club’s captain Liam Botten said. “While I understand the reasons behind it, I am worried about the financial and social impact locally. It’s going to kill grassroots sport if it goes on too long.

“Clubs still have fees to pay, whether it is pitch maintenance or something else, but now have nothing coming in.

“So it’s going to bring financial difficulties that local clubs may never recover from – I suspect there will be a number of grassroots clubs that go under because of this.

“There’s no business insurance for a virus that is new, it’s not on the list, and so there’s no help.

“Haverhill Cricket Club will survive without issue, but others may not.”

He added that the Two Counties Championship Division One club are unsure of whether overseas cricketer Christopher Garrard, an all-rounder from South Africa, should – or will be able to – make the trip over for the start of the season.

“We are just trying to decide what’s best at the moment,” he said.

Meanwhile, silence has fallen at The New Croft, usually a hub of football activity, with all football-related activities ceased.

Both Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side Haverhill Rovers and First Division North’s Haverhill Borough have seen all remaining fixtures in their 2019/20 league campaigns postponed for ‘the foreseeable future’.

Rovers player-manager Marc Abbott said: “I’d have loved to have been able to continue, however with the Premier League making the first call it had to filter down the pyramid at some stage.

“I think there now needs to be some clarity of next steps moving forward, as many clubs are unsure on what happens next really.

“Was it cancelled too early? We will know shortly I guess. I hope we get to finish the season but who knows where we stand.

“It seems like it’ll create further implications going forward.

“I’d imagine they are planning for the season to be pushed back but with the policies in other countries will that happen? I don’t know. I think while there’s mini soccer games on,

“I think there may have been an opportunity to play, but I respect the league’s decision fully.”

Haverhill Running Club secretary Trevor Bunch said: “Following the statement issued by England Athletics, we unfortunately have to inform that all club activities will be suspended until further notice.

“The coming months are going to be very difficult for us all, but we can all support each other and look out for each other.”

The Thurlow Nunn League statement read: ‘The Football Association has told the leagues at our level that is up to the leagues themselves to decide their own position regarding playing fixtures at present.

“We have today been contacted by clubs that have players and personnel who are self-isolating and one case of a confirmed virus.

“We have therefore decided to postpone all matches in the Thurlow Nunn Football League with immediate effect. This therefore also includes matches in the Reserve Division and the Thurlow Nunn Youth League.

“The situation will be reviewed on Monday 30th March 2020 but even if the decision was then taken to restart, no games would be played in any of our competitions until at least Saturday 3rd April 2020.”

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