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Joint statement on the nation's safe return to play

We issue a joint statement with other bodies responsible for public health to encourage collaboration between local leaders and sports providers to facilitate a safe return to play.

08th April 2021

We, along with the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Local Government Association and Public Health England are working together to encourage the safe return of community sport and physical activity offers across the country.

In response to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, we’ve prepared the following joint statement to encourage collaboration between local leaders and sport providers and acknowledge that more than just permission is required to enable community sport and physical activity outdoors.

The statement reads:

Whilst coronavirus (Covid-19) is still circulating within our nation, we have a shared responsibility to both protect the public and support their recovery.

Sport and physical activity have been prioritised for return because of the important contribution being active makes to our physical and mental health.

To help the public benefit from this support, national governing bodies (NGBs) and other sport and activity providers, who are returning, have worked closely with the government and public health experts to develop guidance and new ways of working that’ll ensure everyone remains as safe as possible while participating in activity.

What sports can do to return will change over time.

For example, indoor grassroots sport and activity was not permitted to return in first stages of the roadmap.

Government guidance effective from Step 1B (29 March) indicates that “taking part in organised sport sometimes means that other restrictions, such as legal gathering limits, don’t apply when taking part”.

These exceptions are particularly important for children, families and older people, whose activity levels have been disproportionately affected during the lockdown, and should enable the safe return of organised sport and participation events across the country to help them build up the resilience they need to fight coronavirus.

The guidance states:

  • Organised sport and supervised children’s sport and physical activity can take place outdoors in any number, but people should maintain the rules on social contact before and after sporting activity. This applies to organised outdoor (individual and team) sports, outdoor exercise classes, organised sports participation events and outdoor licensed physical activity.
  • Participants should adhere to social distancing when not actively participating (e.g. during breaks in play, or when awaiting substitutions). Social interaction before and after playing any sport should only take place outdoors, and in separate and distinct groups consisting of up to six people or two households.
  • Organised sport participation events, such as races and organised walks, can take place outdoors and are exempt from legal gathering limits. However, they must be organised in accordance with the guidance for the safe provision of grassroots sport – including organised sport participation events.

In order to encourage the return of sport and physical activity, we’re pleased to note that:

  • Community sports organisations are alert to local infection rates and government guidance, and are ready to follow the necessary steps advised by their NGBs and sports organisations to ensure the public and organisers keep each other safe before, during and after their participation. NGB guidance for each sport has been collated by London Sport. Organised sport participation event organisers will similarly be able to provide evidence of the steps local groups will take in support of their return to activity.
  • Local government is ready to work with organised sport and physical activity providers to help them return to play and provide much missed activities for their communities. As the public bodies with responsibility for local public health, councils will be able to advise on what’s appropriate and necessary in their local situations.

We appreciate this is a challenging time and that public outdoor spaces will continue to be vital for improving wellbeing, supporting positive health behaviour like maintaining a healthier weight, supporting young people and reuniting your communities.

We know that you’ll join us in welcoming the safe return of sport and physical activity and will want to support people in your area to enjoy the benefits of being active as far as they’re able.

For more guidance on a range of topics to help you plan for the return to play, click below.

Return to play

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