This notice aims to produce a hopefully up to date list of all Coronavirus-related legislation that is currently in effect, which would affect both the holding of, and the participation in airsoft skirmishes.

We will not cover items covered in guidance, as the author would like to recommend that skirmishing does not resume until things are a bit safer – and that guidance issued by the UK Government has been known to be confusing when being interpreted along side activities and scenarios that haven’t been explicitly defined in legislation.

Due to how each of the Home Nations have decided to do things a bit differently, there will be separate notices for each country. Please go to the Coronavirus Portal to enquire more about a particular country.

Legislation currently in effect

Here is a list of legislation that, at the last update of this notice, is known by the author to be in force in a manner which places either a restrictive or prohibitive effect on airsoft within England.

There are likely to be more, this has been rather the challenge to keep up to date. The regulations are long, unwieldy, and as we’ll get onto later, full of legislation that has not – and probably never will be activated.

Before 1st June 2020

Up until the 1st of June 2020, guidance issued by the UK Government was particularly unclear with regards to holding skirmish events. Oddly enough it remains the case even past the 1st of June 2020.

Previous to The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 which came into force on the 1st of June, there was nothing in force that could apply to preventing an airsoft skirmish from being held.

Even the much publicised and somewhat derided restrictions on gatherings had only an effect on public land.

There were guidances issued, with one of the instructions issued was to not hold any “ticketable events” on any private property – this was more of a general reference to cinemas, concerts and productions in theatres. There never was any broad prohibition on any (or all) events that involved tickets for admittance.

The closest thing that could possibly have affected skirmishes was Schedule 22 of the Coronavirus Act 2020. This particular schedule gave the Ministers responsible in each of the Home Nations a power to create secondary legislation to control events and gatherings on private land – which unsurprisingly would cover airsoft skirmishing.

However it was never used.

The legislation requires secondary legislation in order to be enacted, and even then, the secondary legislation requires a declaration from each of the Ministers within each of the Home Nations that there is a pandemic, and that this pandemic requires emergency action to specifically regulate events.

Only Scotland gave the statutory declaration, and even then, they didn’t feel it necessary to create the secondary legislation needed to control events.

Therefore, before the amended regulations that came into force on the 1st of June, sites could in theory have remained open – even if the skirmishers (and site staff) who attended may be liable to a fine of about £30 (reduced from £60 for prompt payment) for unnecessary being outside of your main residence. And that added bonus of making everything just a bit more dangerous for the rest of us.

After 1st June 2020

These regulations introduced sweeping changes to the coronavirus regulations, including extending the prohibition of how many people can be in a gathering to private land, as well as for the first time prohibiting the intermingling of households within private properties, even if both people are both members of a single member household.

Unless it’s for work of course.

Anyhow, what was interesting is that the UK Government felt it proper to increase the restrictions on the opening of businesses, the most notable added restriction being the following:

Funfairs (whether outdoors or indoors) [F43, theme parks and adventure parks and activities].

This is, in the author’s opinion, rather an unclear addition. We all know what a theme park is, and I’m sure we’re aware of what an adventure park is, but I’m not too sure what their intention is with the rest of that paragraph. What are activities? Outdoor tennis and outdoor basketball are all activities, and I guess also is trainspotting.

However as of the 1st of June, tennis can be played outdoors so who really knows?

The cheery folks over at the United Kingdom Paintball Sports Federation contacted their local Environmental Health Officer and got a different answer to the above question however, with the EHO stating that paintball venues should stay closed specifically due to the latest addition to Sch. 19 Para. of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 mentioned above.

As previously mentioned, restrictions on gatherings England have changed.

(1) During the emergency period, unless paragraph (2) applies, no person may participate in a gathering which takes place in a public or private place—
(a) outdoors, and consists of more than six persons, or
(b) indoors, and consists of two or more persons.

It’s very difficult to call airsoft a “gathering”, especially when you consider how spread out the skirmishers tend to be in woodland areas. But generally skirmishers come from far and wide to play, which is something that does need to be kept in mind.

After 4th of July 2020

All of the above restrictions have been lifted. All references to the definition of a gathering refer to gatherings on public lands, or within residential households.

With the exception of businesses that are forced to remain closed, businesses such as airsoft sites are largely outside of these regulations.

What does this mean for me, the player?

Well, from current news, not a lot.

UKAPU’s official position has been that skirmishing should not yet be resumed, but given that we are an association that represents the players, with a committee of (mostly) players we have felt that we couldn’t really give out advice and opinion as to when sites are to open – as this would be somewhat acting beyond our remit.

A date has often been put forward of resuming woodland skirmishes after the 4th of July, and indoor/close quarters combat later on during the year.

Notwithstanding the confusing changes to regulations enacted on the 1st of June, the opinion of the committee is that resuming woodland skirmishing on the 4th of July is a bit premature, and we’re thinking more towards the end of July/August (or even better, later). However, this opinion is merely an opinion based on information that we’re picking up sporadically in the news. It will likely change as we learn more about how successfully the imposition of lock-down has affected the spread of the virus – and who knows, hopefully the news for us will get better.