Revealed: Strict rules that allow tonight’s match to go ahead
From temperature checks to water breaks and red zones, the Premiership will feel very different on its resumption
The full extent of the restrictions imposed on match-day operations as Premiership Rugby returns for the first time since March, when Harlequins host Sale Sharks at the Twickenham Stoop tonight, can be revealed.
The strict guidelines imposed to reduce the risk of infection from Covid-19 include stopping play every 20 minutes for one-minute water breaks, with players asked to use only their individual bottles to rehydrate. Players and match officials were tested 48 hours before the 7.45pm kick-off – the second time this week – and everyone entering the stadium will also have their temperature taken by a noncontact infrared forehead thermometer, with players asked to arrive between 6pm and 6.30pm.
Should any individual’s recorded temperature be above 37.8C – including the players – they will be asked to leave the site and self-isolate in line with government guidelines. The match is being played behind closed doors, with no supporters allowed to attend, and the stadium has been split into red, amber and green zones, with only players, coaching staff and match officials allowed in the red zone.
These zoning areas have been developed to prevent crossover between players and playing staff within the testing protocols and all other workers, including the media, and to provide ample space for social distancing. The red zone comprises the field of play, tunnel and technical areas, changing rooms, medical rooms, match officials’ room, Mike Brown Bar, Honours Bar, West Stand Reception, and designated concourses. It also includes access to the stadium from the north-east corner, where the Sale players will arrive and change.
The amber zone consists of the stadium concourses and internal areas not in the red zone, while the green zone is the stadium perimeter and car parks. Harlequins have converted two bars into changing rooms to create the space to allow the players to remain in two-metre bubbles, with the Quins players based in the King’s Bar and Sale in the Mike Brown Bar.
There will be no face-to-face contact between the referee and players before kick-off, with the stud check, coin toss and pre-match communications all outside.
Players will also be asked to remain socially distanced for celebrations while balls will be regularly cleaned. Players on the bench will also sit over a metre apart.
There are also restrictions on the number of media, with 15 written journalists, 10 photographers and 10 radio broadcasters permitted. All media must wear face masks and will work one metre-plus apart, with no food or drink provided.
Zones for photographers to work have been moved behind the advertising boards to what is designated as inside the amber zone.
Post-match interviews will be carried out via Zoom. Everyone entering the stadium will also be asked to complete well-being protocols and maintain social distancing. Music will be played when the players run out on to the pitch and also when tries are scored in an attempt to recreate a normal matchday experience, but there will be no fake crowd noise.