We recognise the benefits that all sport and physical activity bring to physical and mental health as well as the key role that sports clubs play in local communities. From 2 November 2020, a revised approach to outbreak management based on five levels of protection was introduced, as set out in the strategic framework document, with local authority areas in the central belt being placed into level 3, along with Dundee. The “Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels” document provides the Covid protection level for each local area and information on what people can and cannot do at each level.
In level 3 areas, organised contact sport can still take place for those aged 17 and under, and organised non-contact sport outdoors and organised exercise indoors and outdoors can be undertaken by those aged 18 and over. We recognise that that will be disappointing for many adults who will not be able to play contact sport in level 3 areas. However, as the First Minister noted in the Scottish Parliament on 29 October 2020, we will continue to review the situation with the sports restrictions and give updates as and when we can do so, based on clinical advice.
The minister will be aware of the extent of the stress and mental health problems that have been caused by the pandemic. When amateur football returned early in the summer, it was demonstrated that it was of great benefit to those who participated in relieving stress and mental health problems.
I have received a number of representations from well-run amateur football clubs, such as Rutherglen Glencairn under-21s, in which they make a strong case for the Scottish Government’s decision to be reversed.
I agree with the bulk of what Mr Kelly said. Football and, indeed, all sports are extremely important not just for our physical health but for our mental health and our wider wellbeing. Therefore, the Scottish Government did not take the decision not to allow contact sports in level 3 and level 4 areas lightly, which is why the First Minister confirmed that we would continue to look at the evidence.
The challenge with contact sport is that, regardless of how well organised the club is, the playing of the sport presents a huge risk of spreading the virus.
I have been contacted by a local adult football team that questions why it cannot use a large indoor training facility, given the low number of Covid cases that have been reported in the isles and the difficulties of outdoor training in a Shetland winter on pitches that are often waterlogged. Will the Government look again at the level 1 guidance on indoor contact sports?