Government gives green light to resumption of competitive sport behind closed doors

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The Culture Secretary has outlined the strict conditions for elite athletes and professional sportsmen and women to resume competitive sport safely behind closed doors in England from today, paving the way for the first domestic live-action in almost three months.

The ‘stage three’ guidance, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has been developed in close consultation with the Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Public Health England and medical representatives across Olympic, Paralympic and professional sports governing bodies.

The guidance, designed for competition delivery partners and elite sport organisations, outlines the facilities and processes that will need to be in place, including that there will be no spectators at events.

Providing its conditions are met, one of the first major sporting events is expected to be the 2000 Guineas Stakes race meeting, which would take place at Newmarket Racecourse on 6 June and be broadcast on free to air television.

Following detailed discussions with DCMS, the Deputy Chief Medical Officers and Public Health England, preparations are also being finalised for the Premier League and EFL football to resume later in June. This will be subject to a successful vote from their clubs and approval by safety advisory groups including police.

Further announcements are expected to be made by other sporting governing bodies in due course.

In light of the Government making clear that the Premier League should widen access for fans to view live coverage during the remainder of the season in light of ongoing social distancing measures, the Premier League has this week reached an agreement with its broadcast partners to televise a significant proportion of its remaining matches on free-to-air platforms, including Sky’s ‘Pick’ TV, that is available on Freeview, and for the first time in Premier League history, the BBC.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said: “The wait is over. Live British sport will shortly be back on in safe and carefully controlled environments. This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions behind closed doors. It is now up to individual sports to confirm they can meet these protocols and decide when it’s right for them to restart.

“This is a significant moment for British sport. By working with clinicians every step of the way, we are creating the safest possible environments for everyone involved.”

The stage three guidance makes clear that the following conditions should be met for the staging of competitive sporting events until further notice:

  • All competition delivery partners and user groups involved, from the teams and athletes, to the support staff, officials and media, must travel individually and by private transport where possible;
  • Prior to entering the competition venue, they are expected to carry out a screening process for coronavirus symptoms. Anyone with known or suspected Covid-19 will not be permitted to enter and should be placed, or remain, in isolation and follow the latest Government guidelines;
  • A one-way system for the movement of people and vehicles should be established around the competition venue;
  • Social distancing should be maintained by all groups where possible. This includes the competing athletes and support staff on the bench and field of play, such as during any disputes between players and referees, or scoring celebrations;
  • Where social distancing cannot be maintained, sports governing bodies, clubs and teams should implement a rigorous regime to monitor for symptoms;
  • Dressing room usage should be minimised, however showers can be used in line with Government guidelines;
  • All non-essential activities, such as catering, should be limited;
  • Team / athlete medical staff must ensure they adhere to the latest Public Health England advice, such as through the use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment. Physiotherapy treatment should be limited to an essential need only;
  • Competition delivery partners and elite sports organisations should appoint a named COVID-19 Officer to be responsible for oversight of all planning and communications, and a named COVID-19 Medical Officer to have oversight of and manage any individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, to ensure necessary standards are met;
  • Other restrictions applying to the general population must be adhered to outside of competition venues and official elite training venues.

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