THE devastating impact which the coronavirus pandemic and football shutdown has had on Scotland’s senior leagues and clubs has dominated the sports pages for the past three and a half months - and rightly so.

How our professional and part-time clubs fare is of great importance to the lives of hundreds of thousands, millions even, of people across the country and further afield not to mention the overall health of the sport here.

If Aberdeen, Annan Athletic or Arbroath are facing uncertain futures due to the loss of income caused by the suspension of play it is of great concern.

Yet, the Covid-19 outbreak has taken an equally heavy toll on another group every bit as important – the nation’s youth.

Not being able to go outside to play football with their pals, never mind train and take part in matches with organised sides, when the sun has been shining due to social distancing measures has been hard for kids to take.

No other generation, not even those who grew up when the United Kingdom was at war, have had their movements curtailed in such a draconian manner

The coaches of my own two sons’ teams have, like so many of the unpaid volunteers who give up so much of their free time so that boys and girls can enjoy the game, responded brilliantly to the crisis.

Daily skills challenges (who knew there were so many ways you get a ball into a wheelie bin?) and fitness tests (can anyone under the age of 16 do a proper press-up?) have been posted on WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages. They have kept them active and connected with their team mates during a difficult time.

But it just hasn’t been the same. So it has been wonderful to see, since lockdown restrictions were eased further by the Scottish government earlier this month, my kids heading down to the local park, eyes gleaming, balls tucked under their arms, replica strips on, for a kickabout with their mates. Jackets for goalposts. Marvellous.

Sadly, not everyone has felt the same sense of joy.

A letter from the estate factors came through the door last week proposing the grass area at the park is dug up and shrub beds planted, at a cost of just shy of £2,000 to residents, in an attempt to stop youngsters playing football.

Apparently, balls have “on several occasions” entered private residences nearby causing “potential damage to their fences and vehicles”. This has been “very stressful”.

It is the latest development in an ongoing saga. Last year a bid to have “No Ball Games” signs put up in the park were kicked out after a tsunami of objections were lodged. Emails were fired off asking: “Show us the deeds!”.John Brown would have been proud of us. Lo and behold, it emerged there was no provision within the Deed of Conditions to prevent children playing ball games.

Alas, the vanquished have now gone to DEFCON 1.

This stand-off will resonate with the parents of fitba-daft weans everywhere. Or with anyone who ever played in their formative years for that matter. There has always been some curmudgeonly neighbour who confiscates a ball that strays into their garden and refuses to give it back and there always will be.

While I am by no means insensitive to the plight of anyone whose life has genuinely been made uncomfortable by anti-social behaviour I do feel that allowing kids to play football in their local park isn’t unreasonable. My boys are 10 and 12 for goodness sake. They aren’t exactly menaces to the community. With a bit of luck this dispute will be satisfactorily resolved and they will be able to continue.

The situation on my street is a small part of a far wider problem that Scotland is wrestling with.

Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum believes there must be a societal shift in how outdoor play is perceived by many. “A lot of people are very intolerant,” he said. “We have to live with children laughing, shouting. It might be a bit of a disturbance. However, it’s important.”

Fry is right. The sharp decline in the number of technically gifted footballers that Scotland produces and the disappointing performances of the national team as well as the rise in obesity can be directly attributed to the fact that far fewer children are playing outside than in years gone by. Everything possible must be done to encourage them to do so.

Government legislation now requires planning authorities to provide access to play areas in new housing developments. Many councils are now rethinking their policy on “No Ball Games” signage policies. Some have, aside those in car parks and on roads, taken them down altogether.

The intention is to encourage Little Johnny or Jemima, who would spend every waking hour playing FIFA ’20 on their PS4s given half the chance, to get fresh air and exercise, aid their social, emotional, intellectual and physical development and also to tackle obesity. They are important initiatives.

Denis Law, the Manchester United and Scotland legend and former European Footballer of the Year, helped Aberdeen City Council launch their campaign to remove “No Ball Games” signs in his home town back in 2015. He was happy to lend his support to a cause close to his heart.

“You need to get young people out playing,” he said. “The streets were where we learned our trade.”

It didn't do The Lawman any harm.