Light at end of tunnel for grassroots sports in Inverness and Highlands
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Some sense of normality could be set to return to the sporting world this month, as the Scottish Government has indicated outdoor contact sports should be able to resume on August 24.
The easing of restrictions will apply to all ages, after rules previously limited group activity to a set number of households, or children.
Many clubs around the Highlands have resumed training in limited numbers with social distancing protocols in place, but after almost five full months since sport was brought to a standstill, there is now light at the end of the tunnel at amateur and grassroots levels.
The indicative August 24 date enables leagues and governing bodies to start planning, and Highland Rugby Club head coach Dave Carson said there were plenty of reasons to be excited.
“We started on Saturday with a trial run to see how training could look like with small groups of guys coming down,” he explained.
“We had to see how we would go with all the protocols in place.
“It seemed to take a wee bit longer than normal obviously, but we’re set up to do it.
“It was different, and it was a long morning by the time we got through everyone that came down.
“If we go back to normal contact training, it will be massive. It will take six weeks before we can even think about playing games.
“As restrictions are being lifted, we’ll be able to do a wee bit more and more to be ready for when rugby starts, hopefully at the end of October.”
Scottish Women’s Football have already confirmed that their planned summer season is null and void, with leagues switching to a winter season for 2020/21.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle Women’s manager Karen Mason is planning for an October start, but the possibility of being able to return to full training this month is an unexpected plus: “We had thought that we would be starting pre-season on September 1 with our season starting in October, so the fact we can get back to group training before that is definitely a bonus,” she said.
“Now that we have a date again, it’s something to work towards.
“The fact that we’re in little bubbles just now, it’s not the same as having everyone at training. At the moment we’re not allowed to have contact, so it might feel a bit more like football when everybody’s back together.”
Another coach who saw his team’s season wiped out was Robbie Paulin, of the Highland Wildcats.
However, with no prospect of competitive American football in 2020, he is striking a more cautious note.
“Although government guidelines are now saying you can do this and that with sport, us and a lot of other teams in Scotland are taking the stance that we can’t really do anything until our governing body gives us guidance that’s specifically related to us,” Paulin reasoned.
“Even when the British American Football Association say we can, we are of the opinion because we can, doesn’t mean we should. We’re quite widespread, we’re worried about somebody potentially coming from Nairn and using public transport or sharing a car with other households.
“Maybe we need to hold back, just give it an extra couple of weeks. We’re being cautious – we’ve lost a whole season, what’s another few weeks?”