Guidance note on Phase 2 of the Pathway out of Restrictions for Outdoor Sport


The NI Executive recently announced the Pathway out of Restrictions, which included a strand for Sport and Leisure activities. Two infographics have been created to help Outdoor sports plan their approach to Phase 2 of the Pathway. The first infographic shows preparation that is necessary to ensure that Phase 2 is successful. That fact that Phase 2  is called ‘Cautious First Steps’ indicates the need for sports to progress gradually and sequentially through a number of sub steps. These sub steps are shown in the second infographic.

The timeframe for each Phase will be dictated by data related to health, economic and community factors. Progression will only take place if the data is positive.

Preparation for Phase 2Pathway Out of Restrictions - Page 1

This infographic summarises the key responsibilities of Governing Bodies, clubs and coaches. In practical terms, it is important that Governing Bodies take responsibility for their clubs and take a leadership role in providing guidance on protocols, training plans and modifications to training practice. Governing Bodies can advise how best to implement the training in small groups whilst maintaining the integrity of the information shown in the second infographic. It is key that Governing Bodies keep a strong hand on the activities of their clubs, taking the lead on providing guidance and education to clubs on best practice. In some sport and leisure situations there may not be a recognised Governing Body. However, there will be representative organisation that regulates providing advice and guidance to members / clubs on matters relating to sport and physical activities. These organisations should take responsibility for the activities listed against Governing Bodies in the preparation infographic.

Clubs are required to risk assess their situation and build their own action plans using the Governing Body Protocols for guidance. There are some good protocols in existence from the earlier phase of the Covid-19 journey but these should still be revisited and if necessary refreshed in preparation for Phase 2. There are resources available on that can help with protocol design.

Coaches may design a training plan for the whole of Phase 2 but need especially to focus on modifying training practice for sub step (a) which is where they will begin. Competitive sport outside of elite level will not return until the end of Phase 2.

Governing Bodies / representative organisations are asked to consider and put in place appropriate sanctions for non-compliance by clubs or individuals. This is necessary to help ensure that the integrity of Phase 2 and each of the sequential sub steps is retained.

Clubs will need to refresh signage and ensure supply and use of sanitation products. Promoting public health messages remains a key part of the Covid-19 response. Indoor facilities remain closed (with the exception of a toilet for emergency use).

Cautious First Steps

Pathway Out of Restrictions - Page 2

This second infographic shows the details of the expected progression within phase 2. So far, the NI Executive have announced activities that are permitted from 1st April. They have also given a provisional date for the start of affiliated sports club training which is 12th April. This information is shown in the green panels on the left hand side of the infographic. Sports should prepare to start at sub step (a) ‘affiliated sports club training’. Affiliated sports clubs are aligned with recognised governing bodies / representative organisations. These bodies / organisations regulate and provide advice and guidance to members / clubs on matters relating to sport and physical activities. These bodies / organisations must have developed Return to Sport (Covid-19 related) protocols and be in position to engage with their members on the implementation of and compliance with those protocols.

In sub-step (a) which is provisionally able to start from the 12th April, it is important to note that the numbers able to train on a pitch / in a sport space are different depending on the age of the participants. This reflects an urge to see youth sport return as quickly as is safe to do so. These numbers are shown in the green panel beneath the 12th April date.

Training should only involve essential participants e.g. in an adult group athletes plus coach = 15.

With younger age groups, there will be the need for responsible adults to transfer the participants to and from the training venue. These additional people require careful management based on the venue, but congregations for example at entry and egress points must be avoided and spectators are not allowed.

The length of time in sub steps (a), (b) and (c) will be dictated by data and it is imperative that clubs do not progress ahead into sub step (b) or (c) until the time is right to do so.

Patience is key and Governing Bodies and representative organisations have a responsibility to transmit this message to their clubs and members and stress the importance of compliance with protocols.

With outdoor sport being permitted to operate with numbers of 15 (or above depending on age of participants), it is clear that implementation on the ground will come under scrutiny from the wider public. Keeping sport moving forward (no matter how slowly) depends on the data but also the perception of how responsibly outdoor sports treat this opportunity. Photographs / videos that circulate in the media demonstrating any lack of adherence to guidance will be detrimental and may well lead to tighter restrictions or even cessation.

Governing Bodies / representative organisations are encouraged to use these infographics in conjunction with their own material to help with the implementation of Phase 2 of the Pathway out of Restrictions.

Please direct any questions to: 

FAQ’s - Phase 2 of the Pathway out of Restrictions for outdoor sport