As many of you are aware, there has been much debate over the last week as to whether airsoft sites are permitted to operate this weekend with the first stage of restrictions being eased following lockdown.
After much consideration of the available guidelines and rules presented by the government, we are convinced that the following holds true:
Outdoors airsoft sites are permitted to open from 29th March, however, activities are limited to groups of no more than six persons or two households until stage 2 (12th April earliest).
We are aware that many site operators have contacted their local authorities and have been told that no enforcement action will be taken against them if they operate larger games this weekend. We have chosen not to take this route for a number or reasons:
Firstly, the current relaxation measures have been designed to allow people to get outside and partake in small, self-organised activities such as tennis, golf etc which are recognised to have minimal viral transmission risks. The maximum of six persons or two households still applies.
Provision has been made for certain sporting activities to be able to provide for larger groups, under strict controls in games officially sanctioned by there recognised governing body. The national governing bodies (eg the FA etc) have strategies in place which have been pre-agreed at a government level to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Informal or self-organised activities must still stick to the rule of six. This means that you could hire a five-aside pitch at your local leisure centre for a kick-around with up to six persons partaking (and no spectators), but only play a full five-aside match if it was being organised and run by a recognised FA approved official.
Secondly, we have experienced issues with local coucils in the past, where they have agreed (in writing) not to persue enforcement action and have then gone ahead and done so anyway, so we are loathe to rely on their assurances where fines of tens of thousands of pounds and total site closure are potentially involved.
The most likely enforcement on a game weekend would come from the Police, and we are all too familiar (with many recent, high-profile examples) with individual forces and constables applying different interpretations and actions when responding to reports of potential rule-breaches.
Thirdly, this first two weeks of lockdown easing will be closely watched, and people’s actions will have a large effect on whether the proposed second stage of the Government’s roadmap will take place on 12th April or be pushed back further. The press have already reported much irresponsible behaviour in the last two days alone – reports of “large, illegal airsoft gatherings” across the country will do nothing to help either the current situation, or the reputation of airsoft as a whole.
As such, we can confirm that we will not be operating airsoft open days until at least the 12th April, when the second stage of lockdown restriction easing takes place. To do so would be in contravention of the rules and therefore illegal, and whether enforcement takes place or not it would be irresponsible for us to operate as normal.
While we do not agree with the goverment’s decision in this case, and believe that properly organised airsoft games pose a lower risk than many other currently permitted activites, we will respect the law and hold off until we are 100% legal to do so in stage 2. We hope that this will be possible on the weekend of 17th & 18th March.