The Government has released new guidance to allow domestic competitive sport to return behind closed doors. Key features of the guidance include that:
- all competition organisers, venue operators, and elite sports organisations must each appoint a COVID-19 Officer responsible for oversight of all planning and communications and for ensuring that necessary standards are met. This is in addition to the previous Stage Two guidance which requires competition organisers to appoint a qualified physician to act as a COVID-19 Medical Officer to manage individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. At this stage, it is not clear what qualifications a COVID-19 Officer will require (if any) and whether the officer will have any formal reporting obligations;
- competition organisers and venue operators must carry out a screening process for coronavirus symptoms prior to allowing entry to the competition venue.
Against this background, Premier League Football matches are currently set to restart on June 17, Premiership Rugby on August 15, and Formula 1 is due to have its fourth race of the 2020 season at Silverstone on July 31.
On Friday 30 May, the government published the ‘Stage 3: Elite Sport – return to domestic competition guidance’ (the Guidance). This allows competitive sport to resume, albeit behind closed doors, from June 1 where ‘competition delivery partners’ (such as the competition organiser and venue operator) and ‘elite sport organisations’ (such as the national governing bodies, professional leagues and clubs) meet certain minimum conditions, including that:
- Competition delivery partners and elite sports organisations are to each appoint a COVID-19 Officer responsible for oversight of all planning and communications and for ensuring that necessary standards are met. Unlike for the COVID-19 Medical Officer that competition organisers must appoint in addition to the COVID-19 Officer as per the Stage 2 guidance (to have oversight of and manage any individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19), it is not clear what qualifications the COVID-19 Officer will require. There is also no clarity on what qualifications are required, if any, or as to what accountability will be built into the system.
- Competition delivery partners must carry out a screening process for coronavirus symptoms prior to entering the venue, but it will be up to competition delivery partners at each venue to determine what this screening process will look like. The guidance suggests that this screening process may include COVID-19 symptom questionnaires. Anyone with known or suspected COVID-19 will not be permitted to enter and should be placed, or remain, in isolation;
- 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;
- Teams, athletes, and 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;
- Dressing room usage should be minimised, although a venue may opt to provide showers, which can be used in line with government guidelines;
- A one-way system for people and vehicles should be established at the competition venue, where possible, and measures implemented to reduce crossover of different user groups;
- All non-essential activities, such as catering, should be limited where possible;
- All competition delivery partners and user groups involved, including teams, athletes, support staff, officials and media, must travel to the competition venue individually and by private transport where possible;
- Restrictions applying to the general population must be adhered to outside of competition venues and official elite training venues.