Return to Sport


Sport NI is working hard with the Department for Communities to give support and guidance to the sports sector on all aspects of the Return to Sport. We have dealt with hundreds of enquiries since May and have assembled a large collection of resources to help you with your return. Please use them where you can – or get in touch in touch with us via email if you have other needs.  Our email address is

The story so far in terms of easing of restrictions related to Covid-19 and the impact on return to sport

Week ending 22 May

Announcements made that Golf, Tennis and Angling can start activity.

The majority of sports not yet in step 1.

Week ending 05 June

Announcement made permitting the opening of outdoor sports facilities. Non-contact and water-sports able to operate under the restrictions associated with step 1 from 8th June.

Week ending 12 June

Groups of up to 10 are now permitted to take part in socially distanced outdoor training. This represents Step 2 of the Sport NI Framework for outdoor sports activity. However no relaxation of restrictions is yet in place for indoor activity and as a result no indoor sports activity is permitted at this time.

Week ending 19 June

Elite athletes given permission to return to training outdoors.

While there were no further easing of restrictions Sport NI made the following statement to Governing bodies regarding operating at step 2 for outdoor sports:

Where squad training sessions are being planned it is very important that the integrity of the “groups of 10” specification is maintained. This means that any congregation of a greater number needs to be avoided, through the separate scheduling of arrival/participation/departure times with no communal usage of refreshment or rest areas. Separation of discrete groups accessing the same facility is key. It is the responsibility of both the organising body e.g. club and facility provider to ensure that the space allocated to the group allows the activity type to take place while ensuring that social distancing can be maintained. The type of activity being undertaken and the age of participants should be considered when planning pitch sessions so that both social distancing within the groups and clear separation of groups before, during and after participation can be fully maintained.

Week ending 26 June

Elite athletes given permission to return to training indoors.

The Minister agreed to the setting up of an expert advisory panel to assist with the return to sport. This panel will be able to provide additional advice to Department of Health colleagues on sport related matters. The makeup of the panel covers sports medicine, sports physiotherapy, coaching, and athlete representation.

Week ending 02 July

Announcements are made to accelerate the lifting of restrictions and gatherings of 30 people now permitted.

Indicative dates were set for sport as follows

  • resumption of contact sport training  – 29 June
  • reopening of indoor gyms  – 10 July
  • reopening of outdoor leisure playgrounds  – 10 July
  • competitive sports – 17 July
  • limited numbers of outdoor spectators permitted on 17 July with numbers increased at a later date – 31 July
  • reopening of indoor sports courts and skating rinks – 7 August
  • leisure centres and soft play areas – 7 August
  • socially-distanced indoor spectators permitted – 28 August

9th July

Ministers approved the following:

  • The reopening of indoor fitness studios and gyms; snooker halls; outdoor leisure playgrounds, courts and gyms; and cinemas from tomorrow (July 10).
  • The resumption of horse racing and outdoor equestrian competitions and outdoor competitive games and sporting events from July 11 for grassroots and professional sport but with no spectators allowed.
  • Amendments to the International Travel Regulations, removing the need for self-isolation for those travelling to Northern Ireland from low to medium risk countries – click here for further information

Ministers also ratified earlier commitments relating to:

  • The reopening of indoor sport and leisure facilities, including skating rinks and leisure centres on July 17, but excluding swimming pools.

24th July

From Friday 24 July the following changes will take effect:

  • Spectators will be allowed to attend outdoor sporting venues “where the operator can control access and ensure adherence to social distancing”
  • Swimming pools in leisure centres, hotels and private facilities can reopen
  • Saunas, steam rooms, hydro-therapy pools, cold and ice rooms, monsoon showers and sanariums are among spa facilities permitted to reopen
  • Bowling alleys can resume operation
  • The number of people from different households permitted to gather in a private home rises to 10 and can consist of people from up to four different households


Looking Forward

Throughout the past six weeks it is clear that the NI Executive have been adopting a nuanced approach to easing of restrictions in different aspects of society. The Executive has not been announcing the relaxation of restrictions on sporting activity in terms of either their 5 Step Pathway or the stages of the Framework issued by Sport NI. It is therefore no longer possible to communicate the Return to Sport changes with direct reference to specific stages within the Framework.

Sport NI does not believe this situation will change and so we are continuing to translate the NI Executive’s announcements into meaningful guidance but will not be referencing the stages of the Framework going forward. We do however believe that much of the information within the Framework is still useful providing an indicator of safe phased return for sports.


Key messages remain:

  • Indicative dates are subject to confirmation and only indicate when it is permissible for an activity to start.
  • Sports need to develop protocols for a gradual return to sport. These need to be communicated to their members and adjusted as new announcements are made regarding easing of restrictions.
  • Hand washing and social distancing remain the most significant factors to reduce the risk of infection.



Please look at the menu of options on the top right hand section of this web page. This provides access to other Sport NI Resources to assist sports with a safe and gradual return to sport