Sport Ireland Guidance on Return to Sport in Phase 3


Sport Ireland has today issued guidance on the return to sport in Phase 3 of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, which applies to all sports from Monday, June 29th.

The guidance, agreed by the Expert Group on Return to Sport, encourages a gradual and inclusive approach to the resumption of sporting activity.

Return to Sport

Announced on June 19, the amended Roadmap for the Reopening of Society and Business in phase 3 presents a significant acceleration of sport in its return. Previous restrictions on travel will no longer be in place from June 29th.

While phase 3 allows for the return of all sport, National Governing Bodies of Sport are encouraged to continue to adopt a gradual and inclusive approach, catering for all levels and abilities in equal measure.

Competition and Training

The return to training and competition should be on an opt-in basis, with participants taking personal responsibility to decide whether they are happy to return.

It is important that athletes are not be penalised if they wish to opt-out of training at this stage in the Roadmap. They should be encouraged to communicate their concerns to their club and/or National Governing Body so that they can be addressed.

The return to competition should be slow with consideration for the period of training completed prior to any scheduled matches/competitions. Individuals, especially high performance and professional athletes, may have maintained a level of fitness throughout the restriction, however the risk of injury will be increased. Those leading the delivery of their sport will need to account for this risk and tailor training accordingly. Minimising the spread of Covid-19 and the occurrence of injury will be critical.

Contact permitted, should be limited to training and competition only. Strict physical distancing protocols should be in place outside the field and adhered to at all times.

Covid-19 measures should be incorporated into all competition/procedure documents to form a normal part of the sport’s delivery. This should include the appointment of a Covid-19 Safety Officer, to ensure public health guidelines are adhered to, and appropriate mechanisms to assist with contact tracing.

Additional Considerations for Participation in Sport by People with Disabilities or Older People

Whilst mitigating the risk of Covid-19 is more challenging for those who require assistance in their sport participation, steps should be taken including:

Consider DATE (distance, activity, time, environment)

    • Ensure daily symptom checks

    • Limit the number of participants

    • Limit the duration of the activity

    • Consider the contact (proximity, direct touch, equipment sharing) and minimise where possible.

    • Train outdoors

    • Consider the use of PPE for assisting the participant (for example, if they require assistance getting onto a bike). It is accepted that the use of PPE during sporting activities is not generally advised, however its use is promoted outside of field of play, where guidelines suggest.

    • Avoid slipstreams where possible

Summer Camps

The Expert Group on Return to Sport has issued three key points for clarification in relation to the operation of summer camps from June 29:

    • Numbers:  The restriction on numbers (‘15’) is lifted. However, caution is advised, as additional personnel will be required to monitor risk arising from Covid-19. Additional consideration should be given to the safeguarding recommendation (under 12s ratio 1:8, 12s and over ratio 1:10). The availability of space will be a factor in the numbers of participants.

    • Outdoor/Indoor:  Summer camps should be based outdoors with limited access to indoors in case of weather or the need for diverse activity. Indoor activity must be done under strict protocol and acknowledging the extra risk associated with indoor activity. The numbers accommodated for outdoor activity should give consideration for the necessity to move indoors at some point during the day (weather dependent).

    • Contact: Summer camps may allow a certain degree of contact in their activity in the sporting context. Organisers should observe good contact protocols off the field of play and be aware of the intensity, duration and nature of the activity that involves contact.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) has issued specific guidance on the return to sports activities for children and adolescents. That guidance can be downloaded here.

Supporting Clubs and Governing Bodies

The Covid-19 restrictions have meant organisations across all sectors have not been in a position to offer their usual range of activities and programmes. This has resulted in many National Governing Bodies of Sport, provincial associations, clubs and groups taking a financial hit due to reduced commercial income, membership fees, gate receipts etc.

Sport Ireland Chief Executive, John Treacy, acknowledged the important role members of clubs and associations can play in helping sport through this difficult period: “It has been well documented that this has been a turbulent period for sport in general with the very existence of many National Governing Bodies under  threat. The funding measures announced by Government last week provide much needed hope for the sector as we look to return to sport in earnest from Monday. However, it is important that members continue to support their clubs. There has been evidence of refunds on membership fees being sought and it is important to stress that should such organisations be required to refund registration fees, it would, quite simply, collapse those organisations which would have a devastating impact on the sporting infrastructure.”

Mr Treacy continued: “Our National Governing Bodies are working hard to ensure some semblance of normality returns as quickly and as safely as possible. They do acknowledge and regret that the 2020 schedule of sporting fixtures, games, events and competitions cannot be provided in full. Unfortunately, that is not confined to sport and is seen across wider society. It is understood and appreciated that this is a difficult time for many people financially but, where people can afford it, our NGBs, associations and clubs would really appreciate if members and participants would consider supporting them through this crisis. The vital income that membership and affiliation fees generates will have a positive impact on the future sporting landscape. I thank people for their understanding and can speak for us all when I say we are looking forward to returning to the sport we love in the very near future.”

Sport Ireland has also issued Health Considerations for Returning to Sport during Covid-19. That advice can be downloaded here.

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