Return to Sport Expert Group recommends further steps towards Phase 2 protocols

06 Jun 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 the continuing work and positive assessments delivered by the Expert Group on Return to Sport of protocols prepared by sporting bodies for the safe resumption of further sporting activity in phase 2.

The Expert Group met for the third time on Wednesday 3rd June where it considered a number of return to train protocols from sporting organisations. The Expert Group made a number of observations around the next phase of the process, again reiterating the need for sports organisations and their memberships to pursue their sports in strict compliance with the conditions of their detailed protocols and always respecting the public health advice.

Cricket and Hockey are now in a position to resume and follow the 14 other sports that had already restarted under phase one of the Government’s roadmap. The Expert Group had assessed those protocols last week as being compliant with the roadmap and the public health advice.

On this occasion, the Expert Group emphasized that the resumption of permitted sporting activity under phase 2 related to team sports training (but not matches) where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact. The focus is on team training, not on the playing of team games.

Accordingly, the Expert Group confirmed that training matches, friendlies, competitive fixtures or competitions in individual or team sport are not included under phase two; these will arise in later phases.

The Expert Group also clarified that fitness activities and classes that are held in an organized and controlled manner can be undertaken outdoors only from the beginning of Phase 2, on the basis that the group concerned does not exceed 15 people including coaches and trainers, that social distancing can be maintained, that there is no contact, and that the people concerned had not travelled beyond the permitted limits.

The Expert Group also advised on the need for organisers of sport and fitness activities to maintain an electronic log of those attending classes for potential contact tracing purposes, as well as minimizing the use of shared equipment in accordance with pre-defined health and safety hygiene protocols. Many National Governing Bodies of sport (NGBs) and other representative sporting bodies have successfully prepared detailed protocols for their affiliated clubs and members, which the Expert Group considered to be an excellent, informative reference source for private operators.

The Expert Group is to invite NGBs to submit protocols for phase 3 sports, in respect of which a guidance document will be circulated in advance.  It is envisaged that all protocols on the return to sport will reflect and respect Sport Ireland’s strategic priorities regarding women in sport and ensuring in particular that there is a gender balanced return for all participants.

Minister Ross said: “Once again I offer my appreciation to the Expert Group members on the work conducted in guiding our sporting bodies through to Phase 2 of the Roadmap. From my discussion with fellow Sports Ministers earlier this week, it is clear that the desire to resume participation and activity in sport is enormous across the EU but caution must be paramount. We want to ensure that our sport can resume in a manner which is as safe as it can possibly be. There is no such thing as a no-risk scenario but there are low-risk scenarios wherein risks can be managed. That is what our sporting organisations are doing, and they are doing it well in my view.”

Minister Griffin said: “The leadership being shown by our National Governing Bodies of sport at this most testing of times has been exemplary and the effectiveness of what they are doing is being borne out by Expert Group’s positive assessments of the phase 1 and phase 2 protocols that have been presented. There is a lot of stress at the moment in sports organisations as they try to cope without their normal revenue streams. They are keeping the show on the road and that must be commended. Phase 2 is another important milestone in the return-to-sport process and we all look forward to a successful phased return to activity across the sporting landscape.”

Expert Group Guidance