HOP, SKIP AND JUMP FOR JOY AS RETURN GETS GREEN LIGHT


Chief sports writer Gareth Davies looks at the pivotal place sport holds in the community and its impact upon newspapers like ours.

Up until a few months ago, life without sport was unthinkable. But like many facets of our daily routines, the coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to change and adapt whilst we are gripped by the biggest health crisis in a generation.
Sport was put on hold back in March when Covid-19 took a stranglehold on the world but, as the deadly disease starts to abate, everyday occurrences that we have taken for granted are slowly becoming the norm again.
The sporting world at every level is no different and, as lockdown measures have eased, we have seen elite competition in football, cricket and motor racing return with significant participation from our very own here in the West Country.
However, with all events currently taking place behind closed doors, it still does feel like sport is a long way off anything short of normality.
As the Exeter City chairman Julian Tagg told this very newspaper recently, football, for example, is more than just the 90 minutes, it’s about the two hours before, where hopes are raised, and the time consumed after the final whistle blows, which is spent either lamenting where things went wrong or rejoicing in victory.
But not everyone is involved with sport at the highest level. As journalists working for this very newspaper, which has been the staple of West Country sport for over 200 years, we also see the other side of what sport means, particularly at grassroots level.
This, for us, is where sport plays a pivotal role in communities.
It brings people from all walks of life together and whether you play, coach, manage, cut the grass or wash the kit, local sport means that for those of us that had childhood dreams of scoring the winning try or goal for our country, but were never actually good enough to do so, can still be involved.
With all this in mind, it was therefore with great delight that on Thursday, the government tentatively gave the green light for recreational sport to begin on these shores.
Cue rejoicing from tea-huts, clubhouses and pavilions throughout our region.
Nevertheless, as with all that has passed before in these unprecedented five months, there are strings attached to what the government are proposing.
Social distancing will have to remain for the foreseeable future and there will be other changes that will have to take place for teams and individuals to take to the field, court, pool or whatever to partake in their specialist field.
As far as a trade-off goes, I’m pretty certain that anyone would take that currently. Without doubt, sport with limitations has to better than no sport at all.
For many, sport is something that can provide an escape route from the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Stress, for everyone, has been increased ten-fold during lockdown and with no release via sport, hard times have become even tougher.
Sport, in so many ways, mirrors life itself with respect, playing to rules and promoting fairness in all aspects of what is, for the most part, a peaceful world that we live in.
But now, there is most certainly life at the end of the tunnel that from Christchurch to Chippenham, Bristol to Barnstaple, the common goal of sport, where everyone in society can feel included, irrespective of gender, race or ability, will return.
With this in mind, we can’t wait to start telling those stories through our pages and as we adapt to the new normal, the role of sport in reconnecting our society after months of struggle can’t and will not be underestimated.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.