Wolfpack

Sports in a Pandemic: How the UK is coping4 min read

Following the UK government’s most recent coronavirus announcements, Wolfpack writer Joshua Boddy questions to what extent UK sports have been overlooked.

Over previous months, we have seen the state of the COVID-19 pandemic evolve and change. We have looked at the effect on this from our individual perspectives, having been forced into isolation, restricted from seeing friends and loved ones, and been made subject to travel bans. Needless to say, it has been infuriating. We have, however, had the chance to explore the news online and gain a global perspective on how this is affecting us all across the globe, and can compare the guidelines in place in the UK with those in the rest of the world.

One of the perspectives that has been somewhat overlooked is that concerning sports. How has the UK handled sports during the pandemic? Which UK teams that have been competing abroad, and how have those at home wanting to train to represent the UK internationally been coping? We have all seen how the world is coping where the content has been aimed to inform the average news consumer, but what about those of us who follow sports? There has not been much of a news source for the average sportsman or woman.

Firstly, we can say for sure, UK sport is not dead. It is just taking a small, socially distanced, hiatus in some cases – these apply to sports indoors with teams of more than six, which have had some issues with playing in bubbles as to minimise the spread. The UK government is trying to do its job of making sure that the spread of the virus has as little pathways as possible, however, it seems that socially distanced bubbles have caused an issue for lots of sporting events such as field hockey, football, volleyball and other teams who have been forced into strange training structures, or in some cases, abandoning the possibility of training their sport at all.

Photo credit: Issa Batrane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spoke to Issa Batrane, the England representative for Beach Volleyball internationally and a prominent character in the volleyball scene throughout the UK. He said:

“COVID has had a big influence on Beach Volleyball … we stopped training for a few months because we weren’t allowed to … there are a lot more requirements with paperwork and tests … it’s made it very difficult for us financially and mentally.”

Issa has a heavy history with volleyball, beginning at Richmond Indoor Volleyball Club and moving to beach volleyball during a summer with the UK Juniors Volleyball Team. He has most recently taken bronze at the UKBT Wilson Championships with his partner Freddie Bialokoz. It is clear that the effects of COVID-19 have impacted Issa and the other UK beach volleyball players quite heavily and due to the nature of the virus, these effects have permeated throughout all sports in the UK.

This may all seem quite negative, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We have seen that as restrictions are lifted and put into place, sports have been able to adapt and come back together over time. Beach volleyball, although not the same, has made a heavy comeback over the last few months trying to accommodate for lost time by running a large number of tournaments to let players fill that fix. Football has made a comeback to TV with matches taking place without a live audience but with televised games being watched at home. Clearly, we can see that sports itself isn’t completely gone from the UK.
Issa followed up by saying that “The future of UK sports isn’t up in the air … I believe that we will see less British athletes with medals in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics … for a long period of time it will be behind closed doors … there won’t be much of a fan base and supporters which is such a shame as we want to be able to do it for the people, the atmosphere as well as because we love the sport ourselves … we need to do our part to battle the virus and try to slow it down.”

The sporting community itself is in high hopes, we don’t want to see the end of sports in Englandas we have made so much progress as athletes within the country. People like Issa will be trying their hardest to push through and continue to do what they love, but they will require our support as they do so. Fear not, British sport will make it through this.

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