By James Reid
Live sport has been hard to come by in recent months. Sports fans across the country have been starved of any action as clubs up and down the country, regardless of size, had to close their doors and stop their turnstiles as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and this has never been truer with the loss of live sport over the past few months. While it is great to have competitions like the Premier League on the TV, many have noted how it is not the same without fans. There has come the realisation that there is nothing that quite beats watching live sport in the flesh.
There are signs of hope, too, for those who crave those freezing cold December afternoons watching a drab 0-0 draw. Lower-level sports matches are now often able to accommodate a small number of fans, with plans to expand this to greater numbers and higher levels.
While the bright Premier League lights of St James’ Park remained out of bounds for football fans, the north east still has plenty of the beautiful game to offer that you can go and watch in the flesh. Durham has four teams bearing its name this year. Durham City AFC, the oldest of the four, play out in Willington. Closer to home Durham United play at New Ferens Park having been founded in 2018. Two new teams have been founded this year too, with Durham FC and AFC Durham debuting in the Wearside League this season.
Durham Women have recently moved to play at Maiden Castle, the University’s sports facility, with a new stand being built as part of a bid to attract student supporters. No fans are allowed at the minute, though this may soon change. In the meantime, all of their matches are being streamed on FA Player. Slightly further afield, non-league sides such as Spennymoor Town, Gateshead and Darlington are all competing for promotion in the National League North.
If a more egg-shaped ball is more to your fancy, then Newcastle Falcons have just been promoted to the Premiership once again. There are no concrete plans are in place for fans to return just yet, though there have been trial events planned. Their home, Kingston Park, is easily accessible via the Metro. Durham City Rugby Club are yet to get playing again since lockdown began in March but play down at Hollow Drift in the centre of Durham so be sure to get down there once they open their doors again.
International cricket has returned with a raft of exciting games over the summer, though the doors to Durham’s ground at Chester-Le-Street remain closed. There have been trials at county cricket matches since July, however there has been little progress towards a long-term return of fans. It may well be that it will be a while until fans return to witness leather on willow in the flesh, though those in Durham in the summer may be able to witness both Durham’s fixtures and even the rare England game once normality resumes.
Finally, Newcastle Eagles are the most successful British basketball team. They’ve recently moved into their new home, the Eagles Community Arena. The 3,000-seater is just a 20-minute walk from Central Station, so is easily accessible. Plans for a pilot event to have fans return were shelved after a rise in cases in the north east, so fans may have to wait for a return to courtside.
It seems, then, that sports fans in Durham may have to wait a little longer to return to watching live games. Only non-league football remains open in limited numbers. However, what its absence has shown us is just how much we all miss it. So once it’s back, make sure to get out there and show your support.
Image: George Ledger/ Durham Women FC