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‘You may have to pick up the ball with your heel’ - Tennis courts could reopen this week

PUBLISHED: 16:33 11 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:40 11 May 2020

The courts at Cromer tennis and squash club which are at the centre of the dsipute. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The courts at Cromer tennis and squash club which are at the centre of the dsipute. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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Tennis courts across Norfolk could reopen this week as the government sets out a plan for easing the country out of the coronavirus lockdown.

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One of the guidelines announced on Monday (May 11) suggests people may exercise outside as many times each day as they wish - and this activity could include tennis and angling.

Chris Evans, director of the Norfolk-based National Tennis Association (NTA), a non-profit organisation managing 128 tennis courts across the region, said: “We are hopeful tennis will come back soon, possibility this week, with strict social distancing measures as recommended by the government and in turn the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

“This is more likely for tennis venues that do not have indoor spaces and most probably parks.”

One of the NTA’s projects is Norwich Park Tennis, which includes the courts in Eaton, Harford and Waterloo Parks.

Kelvin van Hasselt is passionate about retaining the all-weather courts at Cromer tennis and squash club. Picture: Neil DidsburyKelvin van Hasselt is passionate about retaining the all-weather courts at Cromer tennis and squash club. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Mr Evans said: “We are gearing up the possibility that tennis may start this week, possibly Wednesday,

“Tennis is a sport which naturally follows social distancing rules. However, there would be extra communications to ensure the government guidelines are followed. Our system requires registration online which enables us to do this. This may not be required at this stage, if the guidelines are for households only.”

MORE: ‘Some people have no common sense’: Police warn enforcing guidelines could be ‘impossible’

Kelvin van Hasselt, chairman of Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, said the club will remain closed this week until further clarification and guidelines are obtained and procedures put in place for playing of tennis with minimum risk.

“Everyone has been caught on the hop by this. We were expecting three more weeks of lockdown,” he said.

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He said there was “no way” the club would be open by this Wednesday.

“We’ve been in touch with the LTA, we’re awaiting their guidance.”

Even when the courts are reopened, the clubhouse itself, the squash courts and the table tennis hut will remain closed – and there will be no toilet facilities available.

Among the measures could be allowing play only on alternate courts.

Tennis. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Bobex-73Tennis. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Bobex-73

“Only seven out of the fourteen courts would be used on any given day, with the other seven courts used the following day.

“This would reduce the risk.”

He added: “You may have to pick up the ball with your heel rather than your hand. When serving you might have to toss up the ball with your racket. We’re devising the ‘Cromer rules of play’ so when we do open, the strict rules we use will reduce the risk.”

Alan Reed, administrator of Blofield Tennis Club, said: “We’ve very pleased we can start opening up again for family groups to play.

“On Wednesday we plan to open at least one court and tell members they can play only in family groups.

“It’s better than nothing,” he added.

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He said to minimize risk the club has an online booking system and will tell members they have to leave a 15 or 30 minute gap between people using the court, so only one group of people is there at a time.

Andy Sutter, secretary of the Great Yarmouth and Norfolk County Angling Association, said the competitive angling season does not begin until June 16

The association runs one of the biggest matches in the country, on the river Yare at Langley.

Mr Sutter said the first day is fully booked, with 110 anglers hoping to turn up.

He leases three stretches of the riverbank from landowners, who he will talk with this week about how to make the place safe before competition begins.

“We have a safe distancing protocol in place so we can run the matches safely,” he said.

“Pegs are 20 metres apart anyway, when they fish. My opinion is it’s safe to have matches.

“In the main, match fishing can be organised quite safely.”

Mr Sutter said a lot of anglers have been asking on social media about when they can fish again

“Everybody is gagging to get out fishing on a river,” he said.

The Angling Trust, the activity’s governing body, has given a warm welcome to the announcement that recreational fishing looks set to resume in England on Wednesday.

Phil Grice, General Manager at Royal Norwich and Chair of the Golf Club Managers Association, welcomed the news the government is looking at easing restrictions on golf.

“At the moment it looks like this will involve limiting play to only family members or one other from outside the household, but we are hoping for more clarification on this in the coming days, as we hope this will be extending to wider groups in the not too distant future.

“Most importantly everyone still needs to take sensible and responsible personal decisions and continue to follow the Government guidelines. If this can be achieved we are all confident that golf will be fully back up and running soon and that golfers will start to enjoy the important physical and mental health benefits that come with playing the sport.”

• The National Tennis Association is launching the NHS Free Park Tennis Scheme. As a small token of appreciation for our NHS staff we are looking forward to offering a free annual membership to Norwich Parks Tennis, a membership worth £55 for access to Eaton, Harford and Waterloo Park Tennis courts for the next 12 months. Even better, all family members within their household will be included, they should also be recognised for the difficult time they have and are going through. NHS staff can pre-registered by sending an email to NHS@nationaltennis.org.uk


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