Why your football match in the park could be illegal from Monday

Rebecca Speare-Cole
Tue, 23 March 2021, 6:55 pm

As the UK Coronavirus pandemic lockdown continues but with restrictions easing, south Londoners enjoy the last weekend sunshine by playing football and throwing a frisbee in Ruskin Park, a public green space in Lambeth, on 14th June 2020, in London, England. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
Londoners play football and throw a frisbee in Ruskin Park, a public green space in Lambeth, south London, 14 June 2020. (Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)

Kicking a football in the park with more than six people will not be allowed under new COVID regulations that come into force on Monday.

The regulations, which are set to take effect on 29 March, outline a new system of “steps” out of lockdown as ministers prepare to ease restrictions in England.

It comes as the UK marks one year since Boris Johnson first plunged the country into its first national coronavirus lockdown, and amid fears of a third wave emerging in Europe.

Read: Boris Johnson reveals single biggest mistake made at start of COVID pandemic

As part of “Step 1”, some lockdown restrictions on socialising between separate households will be lifted from the beginning of next week.

People in England will be allowed to play an organised five-a-side football match on a pitch outside from Monday.

However, it will still be illegal for a group of more than six people to have a casual kick-about in the park.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1374016872270737412&lang=en-gb&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fuk.yahoo.com%2Fnews%2Ffootball-match-in-park-illegal-lockdown-185507733.html&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px

Human Rights barrister Adam Wagner comment on the apparent contradiction in the new rules, saying: “Oh, from Step 1 day (29 March) outdoor sports permitted, but not kickabouts in park over 6 people/2 households, has to be organised within the meaning below.

“So you can book a pitch at 5-a-side but not organise one in the park for 10 people who don’t live together. Got it?!”

The new regulations for the coming months also include a ban on leaving the country to go on holiday.

In fact, people will not be able to travel abroad without a “reasonable excuse” otherwise they risk a fine of £5,000.

Watch: COVID-19 holidays abroad – when will Britons be able to leave the country? 0:00 13:33   COVID-19: Holidays abroad – when will Britons be able to leave the country? Here are the key dates to watch

The government has provided an extensive list of “reasonable excuses” for travel, including the “Stanley Johnson clause” which allows trips for the “purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property”.

Boris Johnson’s father was criticised last July for travelling to Greece to “COVID-proof” his villa for the upcoming letting season despite government advice against non-essential international trips at the time.

Read more:
The UK city that never came out of lockdown
These are the only reasons you can legally leave the country from 29 March

Labour MP Andrew Gwynne told The Guardian: “For hardworking families facing the prospect of missing out on summer holidays, it will stick in the craw that the government has inserted a ‘Stanley Johnson clause’ to COVID rules that allows people to come and go if they have property abroad.

“It seems it’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us.”

MPs will vote on the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 on Thursday, with the laws expected to come into force on March 29.

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