Robbie Savage grills Matt Hancock during daily Government briefing about ban on grassroots football

Robbie Savage quizzed Matt Hancock on when grassroots football is likely to return.

The former Blackburn and Leicester midfielder, who was asking the question in his capacity as a Daily Mirror columnist and football coach, wanted to know why young footballers cannot yet receive one-to-one coaching when other sports can.

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Robbie Savage asked a question during the Government’s daily briefing

Savage said: “It is Mental Health Awareness week and we all know how important all sport is as a contributor to a healthy mind and body.

“Why therefore is it in published guidelines by governing bodies that junior tennis players, golfers and athletes are able to receive one-on-one coaching but young people who play the working class game of football are currently not allowed to?”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he understood the issue but said the current rules are in place in order to ‘get a grip on the virus’.

Savage then interjected: “So why are some governing bodies allowing one-on-one coaching with under-18s, whereas the governing body, the FA, aren’t allowing the under-18s getting coached one-on-one? What is it different?”

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty replied: “I fully understand your reason for the questions.

“To fully reinforce your point, exercise of all sort is good for physical health and mental health. That’s one of the reasons we were very keen in the first tentative easing of the lockdown to make it easier for people to do things outdoors and if it’s within their family kicking around a football’s fine.

“This is one of the issues we need to think about a balance. With all of the thing we’re trying to do – it’s about releasing where we can but not taking the risks that we start having the transmission again.

“We were very confident that it is safer to do the same things outdoors as indoors. As you know the rules are, except within your own household, it’s one other person at two metres. That is a small increment from where we are, it is possible to play the kind of sports you talk about.

“Clearly to have a league football game, which is a contact sport and does involve a larger number, the risk are greater.

“The question is at what stage, accepting that outdoors is safer than indoors, that a group of 22 people, coming into contact, linking their households, is a much bigger risk than two people who are at a two-metre distance. At what stage do we think that the rate is low enough for that to be a safe thing to do.”

Former Wales international Savage then finally asked whether or not we would have to wait for a vaccine before grassroots games can come back.

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Matt Hancock addressed Savage’s question during the briefing
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“I very much hope that we won’t have to wait for a vaccine,” said Mr Hancock. “Some of the projects that we are putting in place are there to try and hold the number of new cases down while allowing more social distancing measures to be lifted.

“We want grassroots football back as soon as we safely can.”

Professor Whitty added: “My expectation is that a vaccine before next year – on a widespread basis – is very unlikely. So I definitely hope that football will be available – possibly with some degree of change to how it is played – in advance of a vaccine.

“But we are trying to go very, very cautiously along that path that the secretary of state talked about. My very strong hope is that football is well before the right-hand end of that path.

“Because outdoors is safer than indoors but mixing large number of people in a contact sport is unfortunately a higher risk of transmitting than something that can be played with two or four people at a distance.”


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