By David Williams
Welsh domestic men’s and women’s international football is facing shutdown for a month as a result of the new “firebreak” lockdown imposed by Welsh Government.
Fully professional sport – defined as those who earn their living through sport – will be allowed to continue during the new restrictions which come in at 6pm on October 23 and last until November 9.
That means EFL clubs Cardiff City, Swansea City and Newport County will be allowed to still play matches, as will the Wales national rugby team and regions.
But the primarily semi-professional Cymru Premier League and Wales women’s football team – who have key Euro qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Norway in the next few days – could find themselves having to postpone fixtures.
The same could apply to Wales’ women’s rugby team who have a home Six Nations match against Scotland on November 1.
Those teams may find it difficult to get themselves placed into the fully professional category.
Elite athletes in sports such as boxing, gymnastics, judo, swimming and athletics who live and train in Wales will see programmes suspended.
A Welsh Government statement said: “Sportspeople who work and earn a living through sport are allowed to continue working.
‘The FAW will await further details following the announcement made today to understand the full impact that this will have on the FAW’s Return to Play Protocols.’
— FA WALES (@FAWales) October 19, 2020
“Fixtures involving professional sportspeople are allowed to continue behind closed doors. All participants, such as players, officials, coaches, and broadcasters, are there in a working capacity.
“Like everyone else they can leave home to do so if they cannot work from home.
“However, the elite programme, overseen by Sport Wales, will be suspended during this circuit breaker period.”
With uncertainty over just how many matches can still go ahead behind closed doors, the Football Association of Wales have said they are waiting for further advice.
A statement from the FAW said: “The FAW will await further details following the announcement made today by the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, to understand the full impact that this will have on the FAW’s Return to Play Protocols.
“Once these details have been reviewed, the FAW will release further information.”
Golf and tennis clubs, plus swimming pools and leisure centres will also be required to close during the period of the lockdown. All community, amateur sport and training is to be suspended.
First Minister, Mark Drakeford said the new “firebreak” would mean that everyone in Wales will need to stay at home.
Speaking at the Welsh Government’s coronavirus briefing, Drakeford said the measure was necessary to prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.
He said the lockdown would be a “short, sharp, shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and give us more time”.
There were 4,127 new confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded by Public Health Wales between October 9 and 15.
The R value – the number of people each coronavirus case infects – across Wales is currently between 1.1 and 1.4, while the seven-day rolling incidence rate for Wales is more than 130 cases per 100,000 people.
“There are no easy choices in front of us, as the virus spreads rapidly in every part of Wales,” Drakeford said.
“We know that if we do not act now, it will continue to accelerate and there is a very real risk that our NHS would be overwhelmed.
“The number of people being taken to hospital with coronavirus symptoms is growing every day, our critical care units are already full.
“We are asking our healthcare and social care staff, who have already done so much, to work even harder.
“Unless we act, the NHS will not be able to look after the increasing number of people who are falling seriously ill.”
The Labour First Minister said that “even more extreme measures”, such as an open-ended lockdown, would have to be implemented if action was not taken now.