Green light for grass roots

> FA and RFU ready to sub­mit their plans to al­low safe restart > Mil­lions poised to re­turn to com­pet­i­tive train­ing and games

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - sports news cor­re­spon­dent By Tom Mor­gan The Daily Tele­graph.

The Govern­ment has given the go-ahead for the re­sump­tion of all com­pet­i­tive grass-roots team sports along­side club cricket from to­mor­row as part of a new lock­down-eas­ing plan. The changes will also al­low for small groups of spec­ta­tors. The Daily Tele­graph spear­headed the cam­paign for the re­turn of club cricket.

All com­pet­i­tive grass-roots team sports can be­gin re­turn­ing along­side club cricket from to­mor­row, the Govern­ment has an­nounced un­der a new lock­down eas­ing plan which will also al­low for small groups of spec­ta­tors.

The most sig­nif­i­cant loos­en­ing of sport­ing rules since Covid-19 means the likes of the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion and Rugby Foot­ball Union can set out their timeta­bles for al­low­ing the re­turn of ama­teur-level com­pe­ti­tion. Some five-a-side foot­ball may be back within the next week, pend­ing Govern­ment ap­proval.

Club cricket re­mains the first team sport to fully re­turn to­mor­row, fol­low­ing a cam­paign spear­headed by

The Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board gave the sport an of­fi­cial green light to re­turn last night, and the Govern­ment sig­nalled that other sports can now fol­low.

Sup­port­ers will also be al­lowed to at­tend com­mu­nity fix­tures “in small num­bers pro­vided they are in groups of two house­holds only, or no larger than six peo­ple from dif­fer­ent house­holds, and ad­here to so­cial-dis­tanc­ing mea­sures,” the Govern­ment an­nounced.

The Depart­ment for Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport, which agreed the new guid­ance with Pub­lic Health Eng­land, the Depart­ment for Health and Sport Eng­land, said in­di­vid­ual sports would now sub­mit “an ac­tion plan and re­lated guid­ance, demon­strat­ing its mit­i­ga­tions, how it plans to op­er­ate, and any adap­ta­tions re­quired, be­fore they can be ap­proved to restart”.

Mea­sures in the new guid­ance are said to en­sure clubs sup­port track and trace ef­forts by col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion on par­tic­i­pants at both train­ing and matches. All play­ers, of­fi­cials, vol­un­teers and spec­ta­tors must un­dergo a self-assess­ment for Covid-19 symp­toms, and par­tic­i­pants and spec­ta­tors must min­imise the use of pub­lic trans­port and car-shar­ing with any­one out­side their house­hold.

Other in­struc­tions in­clude:

◆ Clubs lim­it­ing time spent con­gre­gat­ing at a venue be­fore a match be­gins, and “where pos­si­ble” ar­rive changed and ready to warm up.

◆ All sports must also ad­here to so­cial dis­tanc­ing through­out warm-ups and breaks in play, and avoid shar­ing equip­ment where pos­si­ble. Like guid­ance in elite foot­ball, play­ers should also avoid un­nec­es­sary close con­tact.

◆ Sports in which a sin­gle ball needs to be touched by mul­ti­ple play­ers, such as bas­ket­ball, cricket and foot­ball, need to in­clude in their ac­tion plans how they will re­duce the risk of this trans­mit­ting the virus – for ex­am­ple by clean­ing when the ball goes out of play.

◆ Club lava­to­ries will need to be opened be­fore, dur­ing and for 30 min­utes af­ter matches, but they must be cleaned reg­u­larly.

◆ Club­houses and bars can be opened in line with govern­ment guid­ance on hos­pi­tal­ity, with groups lim­ited to six peo­ple.

Sport Eng­land chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Hollingswo­rth said the an­nounce­ment was “an im­por­tant step for­ward”, while Nigel Hud­dle­ston, the sports min­is­ter, added: “This is fan­tas­tic news for the mil­lions of peo­ple who miss play­ing sport with their friends and team­mates.”

Rules on ex­er­cise and sport have been grad­u­ally re­laxed since May 14, when Bri­tons were ini­tially al­lowed greater ac­cess to lo­cal, out­door phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

The FA has been in talks with the Govern­ment for weeks about pro­to­cols for how grass-roots and recre­ational foot­ball could re­turn.

The pre­vi­ous eas­ing of lock­down re­stric­tions al­lowed peo­ple who play con­tact or team sports to prac­tise in groups of up to six, but the two-me­tre so­cial-dis­tanc­ing rules meant no phys­i­cal con­tact.

The FA hopes that matches will re­sume this year and have taken en­cour­age­ment from how other sec­tors of so­ci­ety have in­tro­duced mod­i­fi­ca­tions to grad­u­ally re­turn to some kind of nor­mal­ity.

The RFU has pub­lished its plan for the re­sump­tion of rugby in Eng­land, in­clud­ing three pos­si­ble dates for the com­mu­nity game’s re­turn.

It con­sisted of six stages: from Stage A re­lat­ing to in­di­vid­ual train­ing with one other per­son, mov­ing through to Stage F when there can be a re­turn to com­pet­i­tive matches against other teams.

Sim­i­lar to foot­ball, the RFU has ad­vised that it is cur­rently at Stage B, mean­ing that ex­er­cise within a group of up to six peo­ple is al­lowed, as long as so­cial-dis­tanc­ing guide­lines are main­tained.

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