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 Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Rugby Union - By Gavin Mairs

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.

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