Sport in Barnsley has stopped again, everywhere other than Oakwell, for the next month – raising fears over the mental and emotional impact on children and the financial effects on the town’s non-league football clubs.
The second national lockdown, which began yesterday and is due to last for four weeks to calm the spread of the coronavirus, means that all ‘non-elite’ sport has been suspended for the second time this year. Most clubs and leagues had recently re-started after about six months of inactivity following the first lockdown in March.
Barnsley Junior Football League secretary and founder Gavin Logan said: “I can understand the need for a lockdown but I do worry about the impact that it will have on kids in our league and across the country.
“From the exercise, mental health and social aspect, it could cause a lot of problems and have a lasting impact.
“We don’t know how long the lockdown will last or when we will be playing again. We don’t know whether some clubs will make it through and, if they don’t, then there will be kids with nowhere to play.
“Our league was one of the first to come back in September and we haven’t had any problems at all.
“Everyone has been safe. It was such a big thing to have football back, for all the kids and the parents as well, but now this feels like another kick.”
Barnsley’s highest-placed adult clubs Penistone Church and Athersley Rec play in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division. During the first lockdown from March, they both feared for their futures but survived after receiving significant grants as well as financial support from their communities through fund-raising appeals.
Church secretary Dave Hampshire said: “These are tough times.
“I am very worried that things could go drastically wrong.
“We probably have more overheads than most because of our bar and staff.
“I am a volunteer and I’m waking up at 3am worrying about a football club, it’s not good for my health.
“We had a great win in the FA Vase on Saturday but, on Sunday, I felt as flat as anything because of the lockdown.
“I don’t think the community will let us go under but people have their own lives and livelihoods to think about.
“I think we will be alright but, if it goes on for longer than four weeks, it could get difficult for a lot of football clubs. None of the clubs in Barnsley have a multi-millionaire owner.”
Rec founder and general manager Pete Goodlad is more optimistic. He said: “We are in a decent position. We still have bills to pay and the lockdown will have a financial impact. We might have to keep fund-raising and asking for donations. But we have made some money from the games we have had in the last few months, with increased attendances, and got ourselves in a really good position. We would be OK without football until February or March, maybe longer.
“We’re not in any serious problems at all because the community has backed us in the last few months and we can’t thank them enough. When we really needed people to step up and get behind us, they have been phenomenal.
“We’re not as worried as we were the first time, when I was in turmoil about the future of the club.”
Worsbrough Bridge chairman Mark Booth added: “The news to suspend football is undoubtably disappointing but I think all clubs thought it was inevitable at some stage during the season.
“I personally can’t see a start date before 2021 as you can’t expect players to start playing again without training first so, even as an optimist, you are looking at the back end of December.
“It’s a difficult time and I feel sorry for the leagues as, when we start again, we go into the really poor weather and postponements so I don’t see any other option but extending the season beyond its current planned end date.
“Financially, again it will put clubs under significant pressure. Most of us have invested heavily to make our grounds Covid-19 safe and unfortunately a four-week lockdown does not stop bills. Ultimately public safety and controlling the virus is the most important thing but I am not sure a one size fits all approach is the best option. We have had no Covid case at our club.
“We will watch for what support is in place for clubs and continue to do our best guard to safeguard our players, managers, supporters and volunteers during the next month.”