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Disappointment as UK ice rinks remain shut


The Mixed Age Team Ice Unite from Nottingham. (Credits: Ru Pho - 2020)

Members of the British ice skating community were left reeling a few days ago with the government’s last minute announcement that rinks were no longer allowed to open.

Many rinks in the UK had prepared their venues and briefed their staff and skaters about the implementation of the new ‘Covid secure’ regulations. However, less than 24 hours before they were due to open, everything was brought to a halt with the shock announcement of no new venues reopening for business—including ice rinks.

For the UK skating community, this is the third time they have had their hopes dashed. They were expecting rinks to open on July 1st with other sports, before being told that skating was exempt from the reopening. They had hoped for rinks to reopen on July 15th, along with other sports venues, but were told a week later by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that the guidance published by the government had an error in referring to ice skating.

Then they were told they would reopen on August 1st. This latest disappointment has led to an outpouring of emotion on social media with skaters, coaches and teams alike, asking why the government has made the decision to keep rinks closed, yet allow participation in other sports.

Members of the UK skating community are now trying to launch an online appeal to reopen rinks to allow training to commence, especially as other winter sports have managed to successfully lobby to be allowed to open. Some curling rinks and ski centres have been given the go-ahead to open from next week, yet ice rinks have no set plans to reopen.

Some believe that the government has classified skating as a "leisure activity" and are campaigning for skating to be recognised as the Olympic sport it is.

The delay in opening will put the UK at a disadvantage in international competitions along with harming the training and development of young athletes at a grass roots level. Others are campaigning to remind people of the positive effects skating has on mental and physical health.

There is a general fear that some rinks will not be able to weather the financial burden for much longer. This was heightened by the announcement of the permanent closure of Bracknell Ice Rink on July 14th. Bracknell has a popular synchro club with many skaters on different teams so this rink closure is particularly devastating for the synchro community.

For everyone involved in ice skating in the UK, there is an overwhelming desire to return to some form of normality, where people’s livelihoods can resume and skaters can safely return to the ice.

But until the government changes its mind, all they can do is hope and wait.