Uncertain future for grassroots sport

Councillor Saray Karakus, then the mayor of Enfield, on a visit to Supreme Kickboxing in 2018. The club has not yet been able to resume indoor training.
Councillor Saray Karakus, then the mayor of Enfield, on a visit to Supreme Kickboxing in 2018. The club has not yet been able to resume indoor training.

Local sports clubs face both logistical and financial challenges as the lockdown lifts, reports James Cracknell

The Premier League returned to action in June, heralding the resumption of elite sport for the first time in three months.

But what does the future hold for local grassroots sports clubs, which don’t benefit from huge sponsorship and television deals? Depending on the sport, some clubs have been able to resume training – often with tight restrictions in place to ensure social distancing is maintained. Other clubs remain in limbo, unable to do anything until the government decides to lift restrictions further.

Supreme Kickboxing usually hosts a range of martial arts training sessions at its gym on Leaside Industrial Estate, Brimsdown. Fash Ostowar set up the club nine years ago but now fears for its future. He told the Dispatch: “The only training we can do at the moment is in our car park, using mats and social distancing. But we’ve only had four kids take part when we usually have 40 or 50.”

Indoor sports face the most difficult barriers to restarting, although restrictions could be lifted by the government this month. Fash says the club still has bills to pay and is now £12,000 in debt after being unable to open the gym for three months.

“We are in a really bad situation. Enfield Council has not given us any help, they said we weren’t eligible because we don’t pay business rates.

“The landlord has been very kind, we are talking to them about delaying payments, but the bottom line is they still need to make money. Hopefully we can start some sort of [indoor] training n July but it will take us a long time to recover – maybe a couple of years.”

Similarly, Enfield Badminton League has been on hold since March. But unlike clubs with fixed venues, league chair Simon Gouldstone says the fact that the league hires different halls around the borough means they haven’t lost any significant amount of money.

Simon said: “Badminton is one of those sports where you rent different halls, and we haven’t had to pay to use those venues since March so financially there isn’t a big problem.

“Essentially people are finding other sports to play. We might get some news [about restarting] in July. It could be difficult to find a venue as we use a variety of places like sports centres, churches and school halls.

“We don’t know what our sports [governing] body will come up with in terms of guidelines – there are a lot of questions we can’t answer at the moment.”

Many outdoor sports resumed training in June when the initial lockdown restrictions were lifted. One of the borough’s top rugby clubs, Enfield Old Grammarians, started running fitness sessions in June.

Angela Micallef, chair of the club’s juniors division, told the Dispatch: “We lost a lot of rugby at the start of the year as well because of the weather, so everyone is really keen to get going again.

“We are following the guidelines to ensure everyone is safe. There is no contact, the focus is purely on fitness. We can only have five children per coach, but fortunately we have a large number of coaches. We had about 25 kids last weekend.

“We are planning for a season start in September, as we would do any other year, but we really just hope we can play rugby this side of Christmas.”

Team sports such as rugby and cricket often operate clubhouses which would normally bring in a lot of revenue during the season, but it remains uncertain whether these venues can re-open, even if the sports themselves can resume in some form.

“Not being able to open the clubhouse is our main problem financially – it is a huge source of revenue.”

For more information about Supreme Kickboxing:
Visit supremekickboxing.co.uk

For more information about Enfield Badminton League:
Visit enfieldbadminton.co.uk

For more information about Enfield Old Grammarians:
Visit pitchero.com/clubs/oldgrammarians