Edmonton’s largest adult recreational league organizer has had to postpone their long awaited return to play after the province announced further restrictions on organized fitness activity as part of its latest public health measures.
Premier Jason Kenney announced new measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta Tuesday, including a ban on all organized indoor and outdoor team sports. Outdoor fitness and recreation is allowed with members of a single household or two close contacts for those who live alone. The latest restrictions are set to be in place for a minimum of three weeks
There is an exception for professional sports, meaning the Edmonton Oilers will be allowed to continue their playoff push at home.
However, for the rest of Alberta, the restrictions mean former schoolyard heroes will have to wait a while to get back to the pitch, court or ballpark.
Caitlin Richler, spokesperson for Edmonton Sport and Social Club (ESSC), said they had been planning to launch spring leagues this week after fully shutting down their winter programs. She said they were accepting registrations and have over 100 teams signed up and ready to play summer sports. However, ESSC is now planning on running its first leagues at the start of June.
“We’re hopeful. I wouldn’t say that we’re extremely confident, but if there is a chance, even a 1 per cent chance that we can start in June, that we can get the hundreds of teams that are already registered, playing, and that we can get our staff back at it, then we’re gonna hold on to that,” said Richler.
She said she hopes the government will see there is a difference between indoor and outdoor sports and will allow for physical activity where distancing is easier to abide by to go forward this summer.
“Last summer, we ran our full outdoor program, and we did so very successfully. We had very, very few cases,” said Richier. “When I say this happened a few times, I mean we’re talking a handful, less than 10 (cases), over four months, that this occurred. So, we know we can do it safely.”
Meanwhile, youth sports will have to pivot. Children under 18 have been able to continue to practice within cohorts under previous public health measures. Now, they too will have to halt their activities.
Richard Adams, executive director of Alberta Soccer Association, said there were 1,000s of under 18 athletes practicing in cohorts of eight athletes and two coaches with many teams planning to move straight from indoor to outdoor practices. However, that move will now be on hold for several weeks.
“It’s difficult for everybody and difficult for our players to see obviously, the weather turned and for it to be so nice outside and not to be able to participate,” said Adams. “But from a sport perspective world, we’re going to be ready on May 25, if we are able to go back onto the field under the restricted terms.”
He noted other provinces have been able to slowly return to play and he hopes Alberta can follow suit when it is safe to do so.