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 returntosport@sportni.net

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

8th August

Indoor and Outdoor Gatherings (excluding Private Dwellings)

You, as a group of individuals, may gather indoors or outdoors (excluding in private dwellings) up to a maximum of thirty people.

Gatherings operated or organised by a responsible person

The thirty person limit does not apply to a gathering where that gathering has a recognised person responsible for organising or operating the gathering and it is organised or operated for cultural, entertainment, recreational, outdoor sports, social, community, educational, work, legal, religious or political purposes, or in an indoor sporting event or activity provided the arena in which it occurs is not capable of accommodating more than 5,000 spectators.. The person responsible when organising or operating the gathering must; (a) have carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000, whether or not that person is subject to those Regulations; and (b) take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, including implementing the preventive and protective measures identified in the risk assessment and comply with any relevant guidance issued by a Northern Ireland Government Department.

22nd August

The limit for outdoor gatherings was reduced from 30 to 15 but the same exemption applies for sporting events . Indoor and outdoor gatherings of over 15 for sporting purposes are therefore permitted if certain conditions are met.  There must be a risk assessment, and reasonable steps must be taken to implement the risk assessment issues and to follow Departmental guidance. This will increase the number of risk assessments required to be undertaken, but it will not impose a limit of 15 participants for activities covered by the exemption  provided the conditions are met.

22 September

The following restrictions were introduced from 6.00 pm on 22 September 2020:

The limit for gathering indoors and outdoors does not apply where that gathering has a recognised person responsible for organising or operating the gathering and it is organised or operated for a particular nature,, including those organised:

  • for cultural, entertainment, recreational, outdoor sports, social, community, educational, work, legal, religious or political purposes

or

  • for an indoor sporting event or activity, provided the arena in which it takes place is not capable of accommodating more than 5,000 spectators

The organiser must have carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

A person responsible for organising or operating a gathering must, if requested to do so by a relevant person, provide to that relevant person:

  • a copy of the risk assessment

and

  • an account of the reasonable measures taken

as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any event within 24 hours of the request.

1st October 2020

The NI Executive announced on 1 October 2020 that additional restrictions were being introduced for people living in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.

Sports

Indoor sport is allowed for individual training only (for example, no exercise classes).

Outdoor sports training and sporting events are permitted, however they will be required to take place without spectators.

14th October 2020

Further restrictions were announced on 14th October –

The regulations will be introduced from 6.00pm on 16 October 2020 and will be in place for four weeks.

  • no indoor sport of any kind or organised contact sport involving household mixing other than at elite level
  • no mass events involving more than 15 people (except for allowed outdoor sporting events where the relevant number for that will continue to apply)
  • gyms may remain open but for individual training only with local enforcement in place

 

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.

 

Resources

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