Elite athlete definition should be altered to allow for those under 16, says Armstrong

The definition of an elite athlete should be altered to allow for those under 16, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said.

With new coronavirus regulations coming into effect today, indoor sporting activities are not allowed and outdoor contact sports will be limited to elite athletes, for the next four weeks at least. However, the definition of elite by the Sport NI body states they must be over 16.

Strangford MLA Ms Armstrong said she had been approached by those under 16 who are in training but are now unable to continue while the regulations are in effect.

“I have received a number of complaints regarding the blanket definition of an elite athlete by Sport NI – it is out of line with the governing bodies of various sports. For example, a 15-year-old training to go to the Olympics is now removed from the list of elite athletes automatically.

“I have attempted numerous times to contact Sport NI to discuss this matter but they appear to have gone silent, at a time when sporting organisations need clear help and guidance. I have now contacted the Communities Minister to ask her to look at this matter and seek to have the definition amended to allow sports governing bodies to define what or who an elite athlete is themselves.

“Many younger people excel in their respective sports and we rightly praise them when they go on to showcase their skills to the world. So it is only right we give them the best possible opportunity to be able to do that instead of putting up more barriers to their development.”