Hugs and cuddles were part of the game after a goal but now such behaviour is frowned upon.

In the first of our Your Corner series, Springwood Sixth Form student Owen Kitch looks at the impact coronavirus is having on some grassroots sports

Grassroots football has not long been back under way.

In the North West Norfolk League there are plenty of exciting games to look forward to, despite players having been mainly cooped up inside for six months. One question that’s starting to loom, however, is how long can it all last? 

As a player for Ingoldisthorpe I know that many others and I have already been forced inside for two weeks having to self-isolate. Clubs such as Reffley are also feeling the burden of losing players from their squad for weeks right at the start of the season. 

It’s not just the men’s level that has been affected. Youth football has too, with u13 and u18 football starting to struggle with Springwood High School students in Years 8 and 12 being sent home for weeks and missing games through self-isolation.

With all the doubts setting in, players are feeling demotivated and all the build-up from lockdown seems to be fizzling away as a possible second lockdown looms. 

With changing rooms already being stripped away from players, what’s next? Will spectators be forced to keep away from grassroots football too? Will local pubs and clubs be forced to close after matches to stop people congregating, hurting the local economy again? It’s a massive worry.

Results and even matches have been hard to come by as well for clubs missing players, with squads being stretched. 

Ingoldisthorpe and Reffley had both lost players after Springwood’s coronavirus outbreak left many young players stuck at home. 

Hungate had a recent game and possibly future fixtures postponed as their secretary and two players had been advised to self-isolate. 

This situation has highlighted the problem with all contact sports being played right now.

What if one of these students had coronavirus and had been in contact with other players in training? Would teams be forced inside for weeks with fixtures postponed? 

This isn’t just a problem for sport but with businesses and the local economy.

If a squad has to stay inside for two whole weeks, what happens to businesses who are possibly missing dozens of people at a time?

What happens with pay? Could local businesses afford to pay people missing work because someone in their squad caught coronavirus?

Is playing sport simply too much of a risk right now?

League facing changing landscape

I asked North West Norfolk League chairman Andrew Dix how long he thought local sport can last and what they are doing to keep it going.

Wet weather used to be the main cause of postponements at this time of the season.

“We just have to follow the guidelines from the Norfolk County Council,” he said.

This is where the rules of not being allowed to use changing rooms and share bottles presumably stem from, as well as guidance from the Norfolk County FA.

But does Dix believe the season will be able to finish or will it have to stop again like it did in March?

Recent events in the league, a new government three-tier system in place and intensifying discussion around a possible second lockdown are already casting dark clouds.

“I would like to think we could carry on,” he said.

“But if there was a serious outbreak or lockdown, we’d have to put measures in place and football would stop quite quickly. Unfortunately you never know how hard it’s going to hit.”

Euro miss huge blow for ace Hill

King’s Lynn BMXer Kyle Hill has also felt the brunt of coronavirus. 

This month he would have been competing in the European Championships in the
17 to 24 men’s age category, but they were cancelled due to coronavirus. 

This has had a huge effect on Hill, due to the age group he’s currently in and the one he’s going to be moving into. 

Because he is moving into the junior men’s category – the last category before turning pro – he would have needed to do well in this competition for a last major push before moving into the next group. 

This is so vital as doing well in the junior men’s’ category gives a chance to be in the “development squad”, which allows you to eventually be in the Olympic team. 

There was also a decent amount of prize money up for grabs with a podium finish potentially earning Hill an individual amount of around £75 to £200 with his team potentially earning £750 to £2,000. 

More importantly, the Lynn BMX talent and others lost a massive amount through sponsorship with some racers being taken off the programme.

With such a large event being cancelled, which holds so much weight for so many people and their careers, how much longer can the sport continue and how can those who take part in it continue to afford to do so?