GRASSROOTS sports will be among the first areas of society to reopen once it is deemed safe, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Thursday.

There has been widespread criticism of the decision to shut down children's sport during the four-week coronavirus lockdown in England, while golf and tennis bodies unsuccessfully lobbied the Government for facilities to be allowed to remain open.

Indoor sporting facilities have had a particularly challenging time, with many not reopening at all since the initial lifting of lockdown restrictions earlier this year.

Dowden said: "I know that football clubs large and small make a huge contribution to their community on and off the pitch.

"And I can assure my honourable friend they won't be forgotten. As soon as we're in a position to start lifting restrictions, grassroots sports will be one of the first to return.

"But, until then, we have made sure that families can keep exercising throughout this lockdown so I would urge people to get out and get fit."

Digital, culture, media and sport minister Nigel Huddleston said leisure centres and other facilities would soon be able to bid for a £100million Government fund to help them survive.

Huddleston said: "I completely understand the challenges facing many leisure facilities right across the country.

"Some of them have been able to open, some of them haven't. Some are open but we're aware they're in a precarious financial state."

Dowden added that swimming pools, gyms and golf courses would all be "at the front of the queue to return when these restrictions expire".