Return to Sport Expert Group emphasises cautious approach for Phase 1 Sport

22 May 2020
David Gash

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Shane Ross, and the Minister of State with responsibility for Sport, Mr. Brendan Griffin, TD, have welcomed guidance from the Return to Sport Expert Group to Ireland’s sporting bodies regarding the phased return to sporting activity. 

At the Expert Group’s first meeting yesterday (Thursday 21 May), it was agreed that the best approach to work will be on a Phase by Phase basis as the public health situation and advice will evolve over time. While the priority is to support National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships, the Expert Group will support other sports organisations and will seek external advice and additional expertise as required. The main task of the Expert Group is to assess the consistency of protocols prepared by the National Governing Bodies against public health advice. It remains the responsibility of the sporting bodies to make their own risk assessment on when to return to sport.

The Expert Group, which will hold its second meeting next Wednesday afternoon, emphasised that a cautious approach has to be taken by sports during the early phases of the Roadmap. It is essential during Phase 1 that physical distancing is maintained and that the 5km restriction be respected. The Expert Group also cautioned that it is not intended that team sports would return during Phase 1. While groups of four people are permitted to exercise in an outdoor setting, “pods of four” in larger groups which seek to replicate team environments would be contrary to the general advice. The Expert Group also recommended that surfing, under conditions set out by the Surfing Association, can be added to the list of activities permitted under Phase 1.

Minister Ross said: “The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business provides an important pathway for the gradual and safe return of sport in Ireland. Yesterday’s meeting of the Expert Group represented a really good start in its work programme and this will intensify in the coming weeks. There is however no question of rushing the return to sport. A cautious approach is essential and all aspects of the public health advice must continue to be respected”.

Minister Griffin said: “I am confident that the advice and guidance of the Expert Group will help to safely steer Irish sport back to its rightful, prominent place in people’s lives.  Continuing compliance with the public health advice is an absolute requirement, and I would ask everyone to continue to be responsible. The guidance is clear: during Phase 1 it is only appropriate to resume outdoor individual sport and physical activity in groups of no more than 4 people, within 5km of their homes.”