Is it too soon to reopen Airsoft sites in the U.K.? Can we implement a set of rules to make it safe? Will we see some sites close due to the economic pressures placed upon them? I don’t have all the answers… I wish it was a clear cut question with a straightforward answer, but it just isn’t.
With restrictions in the U.K. becoming gradually more relaxed, there’s a growing momentum for many sites to start reopening their doors. Even those that have not already set a date will be certainly looking at the measures they will need to implement in order to keep their players and staff safe.
I’m not going to point fingers at certain sites and say they’ve made the wrong decision, I can’t say I’ve run a site or had the financial pressure of being a business owner, so I’d be talking from an ivory tower of bullshit if I chastised those who just want to see their livelihood survive.
But needless to say, some sites have taken the decision to open as early as later this month (June) with a mixed response from the community whilst others (without clear guidance from the government) have taken the difficult decision to remain closed without a foreseeable reopening date in sight.
As for their justifications for opening? Well, at least one site has likened Airsoft to Golf in terms of risk, but I’d argue that it’s a bit of a stretch to compare a gentle walk in a well mowed field whilst twatting a ball around, to pretending that you’re GI Joe and running into trees etc… But we live and die by our choices, only the future will see who was right.
I’m actually quite a risk-averse person, I don’t gamble often, I don’t make important decisions on the fly and I generally err on the side of caution if forced into a choice. I very nearly pulled out of a house sale at the last minute because the electrical certificates threw up some pretty simple, fixable issues… Although my wife would say I was just being difficult for the sake of it 😂.
So let’s look at those three questions at the top…
Q1, Is it too early to start reopening sites in the U.K.?
A1, In my personal opinion, yes… far too early. I don’t think we should be looking at reopening our sites or attending them until at least other, similar businesses are able to safely reopen. For many sites this will mean the paintball side of their business being able to legally reopen.
Risk wise, I feel we’re pretty much where we were a month ago and the only thing that’s changed is that we’ve all become a little more complacent of the potential danger and incrementally we’ve all started to slip in our social distancing habits.
Whilst hundreds of people are dying daily from coronavirus I simply cannot see myself taking the decision to attend a game with the potential risk of infection.
Q2, Can we implement a set of rules to make it safe?
A2, There are some common sense rules we will have to add to our usual routine in order to maintain social distancing, from limited player numbers to restricting certain game areas, we’ll undoubtedly see our game be changed into something a little alien from what we’re used to.
Medic rules and other contact related activities would certainly have to be modified, as would minimum engagement distances. Even simple things like going to the toilet would be such a massive ball ache, I’m not sure how we’d even organise a safe way for 40 people to use one single portaloo.
There’s literally so many different aspects to consider, that reopening might actually not be profitable for a site to do with the current rules and measures.
And this leads me into the final part of this discussion…
Q3, Will we see some sites close due to the economic pressures placed upon them?
A3, Sadly, yes. Some sites, even those that are highly successful might be hit very hard by the economy. Most sites rely on cheap land rent in order to keep their sites running, the larger commercial property owners will inevitably be hit hard by retail businesses that close, this could then snowball and force the rental costs for those remaining businesses on the landlord’s books upwards, this making them unprofitable to run.
It could also go the other way and result in whole shopping centres, approved Construction land and warehouse units to suddenly become available due to an economic downturn… So there’s also a potential for sites similar to The Mall, UCAP’s former Sandpit site or Strikeforce’s indoor CQB site to open up in place of those abandoned, empty locations.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’d say that certainly were unlikely to see military training areas reopened for at least the rest of the year, indoor sites the same and potentially we will all be wearing our winter coats before the more cautious sites reopen their doors for business.
I personally won’t be making the decision to attend a game until I’m happy that I won’t be adding to a potential problem, with UK Coronavirus deaths still in their hundreds per day, I can’t see that being for quite some time indeed.