SPORTING activity across the district has been wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic after government advice this week against mass gatherings and all unnecessary social contact.
The announcement of these measures by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, on Monday led to an immediate raft of sporting suspensions, with football, rugby league, rugby union and cricket authorities among those to declare a complete shutdown of all levels of their sports.
In rugby league, matches went ahead last weekend, including Dewsbury Rams’ defeat at Newcastle in the Challenge Cup, but the Rugby Football League (RFL) announced that the season would be suspended until April 3 at all levels following a six-hour meeting on Monday.
Dewsbury had already announced that their home match with French club Toulouse this weekend would have to be postponed, and the decision means that games in at least the next two rounds of the Championship season for the Rams and Batley Bulldogs will not go ahead.
Championship and League One clubs held a conference call with the RFL on Tuesday to consider the implications of this suspension.
Ralph Rimmer, chief executive of the RFL, said: “This will have a significant impact on clubs at all levels, as on all businesses, in all sectors. It is important for us as a governing body to be able to represent those clubs, given what a powerful force for good they are in our communities.
“It was a positive meeting at which all agreed on the importance of a collegiate approach, both for the Championship and League One clubs and the game as a whole – focusing on three key areas of player welfare, club sustainability, and the integrity of the competitions.
“We will maintain regular dialogue with the clubs, as well as with Government, broadcasters and sponsors, over the period of our initial suspension until the weekend of April 3, as we work together and look forward to the resumption of games.”
All amateur rugby league competitions have been suspended, including the National Conference League and Yorkshire Men’s League, while the Yorkshire Junior and Youth League (YJYARL) have suspended all junior activity for a further two weeks, until April 18-19, to include the Easter holidays.
“We advise clubs to refrain from training for the time being,” the YJYARL said. “We appreciate this is an unsettling time for all clubs, in an ever-changing situation. We will communicate with clubs should anything change.”
The Heavy Woollen ARL have postponed their Under-23s tour to Malta, but say that they hope to be able to reschedule the trip later this year.
In football, some semi-professional and amateur leagues followed the lead last Friday of the Premier League and English Football League in calling off matches, with Liversedge FC’s Northern Counties East Football League (NCEL) postponing the remainder of the season.
That was followed on Monday by the remaining leagues, including Ossett United’s Northern Premier League (NPL) and all amateur leagues, shutting down.
The NPL played on last weekend although some individual games were called off, including Ossett’s trip to Kendal as a precaution by the hosts. The divisions were suspended on Monday until further notice.
The Football Association then took the measure on Monday evening of advising the postponement of all grassroots football for the foreseeable future. The Yorkshire Amateur League have suspended all games until further notice, as has the Heavy Woollen District FA.
The suspension also includes the entire women’s game, with Ossett United Ladies out of action for the coming weeks after the North East Regional Women’s Football League decided to postpone all games until April 5.
The Rugby Football Union announced on Monday evening that all rugby union activity at both professional and community level was suspended until April 14, subject to continued review.
The move means there is a chance that the current season will not be completed, throwing into doubt Cleckheaton’s push for promotion in the North One East division.
The RFU said: “The decision has been taken following government advice in the interests of players, coaches, referees, volunteers, supporters and the wider rugby union community.
“The RFU will continue to review and monitor government advice and will provide detailed updates on the impact to the season in the coming weeks.”
In cricket, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have recommended that all forms of recreational cricket be suspended, extending to training and pre-season friendlies.
The Bradford League season, which was due to begin on April 18, has not yet been delayed but the League outlined on Wednesday their three-stage contingency response. The first stage, involving the cancellation of non-essential meetings and events in April, including the pre-season meeting, has been activated.
If the situation escalates further, the second stage will see the postponement of all of April’s fixtures until later in the season. The third stage would see the first half of the season cancelled altogether if cricket is unable to resume by June (see Mike Popplewell, page 21).
Bradford League chairman David Young said: "It is important that clubs know our absolute priority is the health and welfare of everybody in the Bradford Premier League community, our players, officials, umpires, scorers, groundsmen, tea ladies, volunteers and supporters.
"These are unprecedented times and we appreciate the challenges facing our clubs and as a league we will do all we can by putting in the hard work and planning that is going to be needed in the coming weeks."
The ECB said on Wednesday: “Over the coming weeks we will work with the game to understand what support is required across the cricket community, particularly local clubs and leagues - who will have such a huge role to play in our nation’s response to coming out of this situation.”
England Boxing have postponed junior championships and advised that senior championships and other tournaments are likely to follow suit.
Purge Boxing Academy in Batley has closed until further notice “with the health and safety of the kids, coaches and parents in mind”.
England Hockey took the decision to suspend all national activity until April 15 and Yorkshire Youth Hockey have confirmed that all junior hockey has been postponed. Slazenger Hockey Club, in Horbury, has followed in suspending activity.
England Athletics has advised that all events, competitions, club training sessions and running groups should be suspended until at least the end of April.
Consequently, Dewsbury Road Runners and Spenborough AC have suspended all sessions for that timeframe, including Spen cancelling the Spring Open Meeting which was due to take place on March 29.
In bowls, the British Crown Green Bowling Association has cancelled all events until further notice, postponing the British Club Championship that was due to begin this Sunday (March 22) at Spen Victoria.
England Netball have suspended all activity at all levels until further notice, while Ready Steady Active have postponed all activity including their rounders league.
British Cycling has suspended all of its sanctioned activities, initially until April 30, and Ravensthorpe Cycling Club have followed the guidance of the sport’s governing body. Heckmondwike Cycle Speedway have also cancelled events until the end of April.
Welcome to Yorkshire and the Amaury Sport Organisation have also jointly decided to cancel this year’s Tour de Yorkshire, which was scheduled to take place between April 30 and May 3.