Coronavirus brings sport to a halt

Thursday 19th March 2020 11:00 am
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The EBB Stadium home of National League Aldershot Town is essentially in lockdown ()

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SPORT in east Hampshire and south-west Surrey has ground to a halt.

With the whole world currently in the grip of a coronavirus pandemic which has already claimed 9,000 lives, sport has for once taken a back seat.

While everyone from footballers to snooker players and tae kwon do fighters to club runners have been in limbo for some time, the inevitable sporting shutdown came in the form of a national statement from UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday afternoon, in which he warned against “non-essential contact” and “unnecessary travel”.

A statement from the FA, the sport’s governing body, soon followed in which it stated its intention to “postpone all football for the foreseeable future”.

With the Premier League and EFL already suspended, and the Combined Counties League involving Farnham Town and Badshot Lea following suit shortly after, all non-league and grassroots football quickly followed, everything from the National League to the North East Hampshire Youth League – ruling out Aldershot’s big money-spinner at home to local rivals Woking in the National League this Saturday.

But football was far from the only sporting casualty of the social-distancing move which aims to slow down a trend which has already seen 1,950 people contract the deadly virus in the UK.

The RFU, rugby’s governing body, cancelled all leagues and traning with immediate effect, leaving Farnham’s promotion hopes from London 2 South West and Alton’s in the Hampshire Premiership in the balance.

A Farnham Rugby Club spokesman said: “Following government advice, the RFU has suspended all rugby activity in England, at both professional and community level. The club is, of course, following this instruction and is now closed.”

Hockey has been hit too, with the South Men’s League and the Hampshire League shutting down, while the Farnham & District Billiards & Snooker League and the Aldershot & District Table Tennis League have also suspended play.

A spokesman for the table tennis league cited a number of players in the 70-plus age range who are most at risk from the virus.

UK Athletics has also shut down its activities until at least the end of April, affecting the plans of Farnham Runners, Haslemere Border and Alton Runners.

Alton Cricket Club chairman Julian Ballinger said the club had cancelled indoor nets ahead of the May 2 Southern Premier League start date, Farnham School of Tae Kwon Do was staying open while the schools were still open, but Alton Cycling Club’s annual Phil Hampton memorial ride this Saturday has been called off.

And next week’s East Hampshire Sports Awards, which honours the great and the good of district sport, has also been cancelled. It was due to be held at Old Thorns Manor Hotel near Liphook on March 26.

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