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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-phased-return-of-sport-and-recreation/return-to-recreational-team-sport-framework
National restrictions begin in England from 5 November. Find out about the new restrictions and what you can and cannot do.
Current guidance covering national restrictions
From 5 November 2020, England will enter a period of national restrictions. The new measures include:
- requiring people to stay at home, except for specific purposes
- preventing gathering with people you do not live with, except for specific purposes
- closing certain businesses and venues
The new measures will apply nationally until Wednesday 2 December. For this period, the new restrictions are in place, and any previous regulations and guidance do not apply. They are provided below for information only.
During the period of national restrictions, the following applies:
Individual exercise is permitted – alone, with 1 other person, or within your household or bubble.
- You must not leave your home or be outside your home, except for specific purposes which include exercise.
- You are allowed to leave your home to exercise outdoors. You should stay as local as possible, but can travel out of your local area if necessary (for example, to access an open space). If you need to travel, you should walk or cycle where possible, and follow guidance on safe travel.
- You can exercise outdoors in a public place alone, with the people you live with (or your support bubble or childcare bubble) or with 1 person from another household. Children under 5, and up to two carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care are not counted towards the gatherings limit of two people meeting outside. This means, for example, that a parent with a baby can still go for a walk with a friend.
- There is no restriction on the type of activity you can do when exercising, provided that you are within the permitted gathering limits outlined above. You should maintain social distance when exercising with anybody who you do not live with, unless they are in your support bubble, and you are advised to avoid any activity which requires close contact. You cannot exercise with or meet someone you do not live with (or from your support bubble) in a private garden. Sports facilities will also be closed.
- There is no limit on the amount of individual exercise you can do, but you should act responsibly and limit transmission risk wherever possible.
Sport facilities will close, but you can exercise in public outdoor spaces.
- Sport and leisure facilities, such as leisure centres, swimming pools, gyms and sport clubs, will have to close during the national restrictions. This applies to both indoor and outdoor facilities.
- This includes, but is not limited to, sport facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, climbing walls and climbing centres, and archery and shooting ranges.
- You can visit outdoor public places in order to exercise, including parks, beaches, the countryside and public gardens. Personal trainers and sports coaches should only provide training in public outdoor spaces, such as parks. They should not provide any training in private homes or gardens, and in line with gatherings rules should only provide 1:1 training.
- Personal trainers and sports coaches should take care to maintain social distancing when providing training.
This guidance applies to children and adults.
- Schools and further education colleges remain open and children can participate in PE and sport where it is part of the curriculum or part of the core timetable of the school. Sporting and physical activity is also permitted as part of other supervised activities for children (such as wraparound care), where it is necessary to enable their parents or carers to work, seek work, attend education or training, or for respite care.
- Most organised children’s sport outside school activity will have to cease, but there are some allowances for childcare. Parents should continue to use these childcare facilities where reasonably necessary to enable parents to work, seek work, attend training or education, or for respite care.
- Universities can also continue to provide curriculum sport, but this does not extend to extra-curricular sport such as sport clubs or societies, including playing for a university team, and there should be no inter-mural sporting fixtures or competitions.
The above guidance applies during the period of national restrictions, until Wednesday 2 December.
From Thursday 5 November, national restrictions supersede the below guidance, in particular where the document refers to Local COVID Alert Levels.
This guidance below this box remains available so that it can be used by those organisations which are permitted to operate under the national restrictions, and for information purposes only for organisations currently not permitted to open.
The government recognises the vital role sports and physical activity plays in ensuring physical and mental health. The return of team sport is an exciting moment for the millions of people who use this activity as their exercise of choice and gain the multiple physical, mental and social benefits of playing. This return must be made as safe as possible, which is why the government has produced this guidance and why sport governing bodies will be preparing thorough plans of their own. It is recognised that risk in sport cannot be completely eradicated, but with caution and care, risks can be reduced and the benefits of team sport enjoyed fully again.
While this guidance applies to England, you should always consider whether there are local restrictions in place in your area. If you live, work or volunteer in an area that is experiencing a local COVID-19 outbreak and where local restrictions have been imposed, different guidance and legislation will apply. Please consult the local restrictions pages to see if any restrictions are in place in your area.
According to current evidence, COVID-19 is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces – usually those that are frequently touched. Airborne transmission is possible in specific settings where certain procedures or sports treatments are performed in close proximity.
The purpose of this document is to provide the necessary mitigations to enable the return of competitive recreational team sport. The framework we outline below is designed to minimise the COVID-19 transmission risk whilst taking part in recreational team sport and enable participants to make an informed decision about their own risk.
These mitigations allow for competitive sport to take place whilst maintaining appropriate compliance with social distancing and permitted group sizes. This is only permitted if this guidance is fully implemented by a national governing body (NGB) and complemented by a public health approved action plan for each sport, with activity taking place under an official governing body’s oversight. Compliance with current guidance on social mixing must be maintained at all times when not on the field of play.
Sport action plans and guidance
Each sport will submit to the government (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) an action plan and any related guidance, demonstrating its mitigations, how it plans to operate, and any adaptations required. The sport-specific action plan and risk mitigation proposal must recognise that practice may need to be adapted or curtailed and this information communicated to participants swiftly, if the overall threat level or community prevalence of COVID-19 dictates, or if it becomes apparent that a specific sport carries a high level of transmission risk.
Each sport will provide an assessment of the transmission risk that a return to competitive recreational activity represents, based on three key variables:
Droplet transmission: The risk associated with each action in an activity based on duration and proximity of participants. By using the framework, sports can determine the risk of actions in their matchplay environment – anything, for example, from tackling, to bowling, to re-start – which will then determine the overall level of risk of taking part in that sport.
Fomite transmission: The risk associated with the handling and transfer of equipment in the sport
Population: The number of participants likely to take part in the proposed activity plus known risk factors of participants with underlying health conditions or high risk groups who wish to participate
Based on this overall risk profile some recreational sports will be lower risk than others and better suited to return to competitive play earlier with or without adaptation.
All sports should ensure that sessions comply with the relevant national governing body safeguarding policies and procedures, and conduct a thorough risk assessment which should be included as part of the action plan. Particular consideration needs to be given to children and young people under the age of 18 and vulnerable adults who may be less able to understand or maintain social distancing discipline.
Action plans and guidance should be submitted for review to DCMS at sportsCOVID19@dcms.gov.uk. National governing bodies will receive confirmation of receipt of the action plans and guidance, and also confirmation when DCMS has reviewed those documents and is satisfied that their content is not inconsistent with all current and relevant government guidance.
Public Health England may also wish to review action plans and guidance in certain circumstances. In such a case, the review process may take longer.
Once DCMS has given this confirmation, the national governing body will be linked at the bottom of this page. Until the national governing body is linked on GOV.UK, the team sport should not restart.
From 12 October, national governing bodies should update their guidance to reflect the changes which will apply to organised indoor sport for adults.
In areas with a medium alert rating, organised indoor team sport should only take place in groups of up to 6 people (not including anyone present in a work capacity or providing voluntary services, such as officials and coaches). Other organised indoor sport, including indoor exercise classes, can continue to take place with larger numbers present, provided that participants are in separate groups of up to 6 people which do not mix with other groups.
In areas with a high or very high alert rating, organised indoor sport, including team and individual sport and exercise classes, can only take place between people from the same household. They are only permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with. Where it is likely that people will mix with others they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), these activities should not take place.
These additional restrictions do not apply to sport for people with disabilities, sport for the purpose of education, and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can continue in any number across all levels.
Key principles - prior to activity
Each club must only return to sport when they have the appropriate measures in place as developed by the NGB and general government guidance in relation to recreational sport.
All recreational clubs must develop a written COVID-19 plan and risk assessment prior to activity. Preparation must include those in charge of the session taking part in specific training, as necessary, and participants being asked to consider if their underlying health, may caution against participation. A checklist to support clubs to put the appropriate measures in place will be made available. All the above documents must be promulgated to all coaches, assistant coaches and welfare officers.
Risk assessments should be completed in line with guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
All organised activity for children will continue to be exempt from the rule of 6. This includes organised indoor team sports and all supervised sporting activity for under-18s. All clubs running activities for children should also consult the DfE guidance on protective measures for out-of-school settings, which sets out further practical steps providers of community activities, holiday clubs, after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school provision for children should follow to minimise the risk of transmission for children attending their settings.
Test and trace
Continued opening up of the economy and public services is reliant on NHS Test and Trace being used to minimise transmission of the virus. In order to ensure that businesses and local services are able to remain open, venues must:
ask at least one member of every party of customers or visitors (up to 6 people) to provide their name and contact details
keep a record of all staff working on their premises and shift times on a given day and their contact details
keep these records of customers, visitors and staff for 21 days and provide data to NHS Test and Trace if requested
display an official NHS QR code poster from 24 September 2020, so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details
adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation
This includes clubs providing team sporting activities, indoor sport and leisure centres, outdoor swimming pools and lidos, and sports and massage therapists, and services provided for social and recreational purposes in youth and community centres, and village halls.
Each sport / NGB will determine in their action plan or guidance the process their sport will go through to enable test and trace efforts to happen by providing the way in which all information on participants will be collected at both training and matches.
In addition, the hospitality sector will be required to ensure that anyone visiting pubs, restaurants and other venues provides their contact information or checks in using the official NHS QR code before being allowed entry to the venue.
Any designated venue that is found not to be compliant with these regulations will be subject to financial penalties. It is vital that relevant venues comply with these regulations to help keep people safe, and to keep businesses open.
Designated venues will need to keep records of customers, visitors and staff for a period of 21 days and make them available when requested by NHS Test and Trace or local public health officials to help contain clusters or outbreaks.
Find out more about how to maintain a record of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.
Pre-attendance official symptom check
All players, officials, volunteers and spectators must undergo a self-assessment for any COVID-19 symptoms. No-one should leave home to participate in sport if they, or someone they live with, has symptoms of COVID -19 currently recognised as any of the following:
A high temperature
A new, continuous cough
A loss of, or change to, their sense of smell or taste
Should an individual have demonstrated any such symptoms, they must follow NHS and PHE guidance on self-isolation
Participants will be made aware of any increased risk associated with taking part in activity, based on the assessment undertaken by the governing body. They should also be strongly advised to comply with public health restrictions and avoid high risk behaviour outside the sports setting to reduce the risk to their fellow participants when they do attend.
Travel to participate in sporting activities
Participants should always follow best practice for travel, and aim to walk or cycle if possible. Where that is not possible, participants can use public transport or drive, but should avoid travelling with someone from outside their household or support bubble unless they can practise social distancing. See the government’s guidance on safer travel for passengers, and car sharing, for further information.
There is additional guidance for areas with a high or very high alert rating, which affects those living in the areas as well as those who wish to travel into the areas to take part in sporting activities.
High: you should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make, where possible.
Very high: you are advised not to travel into or out of areas that have a very high alert level, including for sport, unless this is necessary to enable individual exercise (or exercise for people from the same household or support bubble). This does not apply to travel where it is necessary to enable sport for disabled people, sport for educational purposes, or supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, to take place.
Arrival at venues
Clubs should limit the time spent congregating at a venue before activity begins. Meet-up times should reflect this, and participants should arrive in kit where possible. Social interaction before and after playing any sport should only take place in separate and distinct groups consisting of up to 6 people (medium alert areas) or limited to people from the same household or support bubble (high/very high alert areas). Exceptions may be made where safety and safeguarding measures require this, such as supporting disability athletes (though minimal time should be spent waiting or in changing rooms).
Key principles - during activity
Social distancing in play
All sports must adhere to social distancing throughout warm-ups and avoid equipment sharing. The sport-specific action plan must address the issue of how the sport can best mitigate the risk of social distancing in competitive matches and training. Organised indoor sports must follow the legal gathering limits and other guidance which applies to their local area.
Having completed the droplet transmission risk assessment, each sport may introduce ‘COVID-19 adaptations’ to lower the frequency of activities that cannot be done whilst socially distanced. Avoid unnecessary breaking of social distancing such as pre-game handshakes, huddles, face-to-face confrontation with opponents and officials, and scoring celebrations.
Social distancing during breaks and post-game
All participants must remain socially distanced during breaks in play with spaced areas for equipment and refreshment storage for each individual including officials and substitutes. Coaching staff and substitutes, should, for example, be spread out and avoid sharing a dugout or bench if social distancing cannot be observed.
Water bottles or other refreshment containers, should in no circumstances be shared. Participants are advised to bring their own, in a labelled or highly distinguishable container. Social interaction before and after playing any sport should only take place in separate and distinct groups consisting of up to 6 people (medium alert areas) or limited to people from the same household or support bubble (high/very high alert areas). This includes in any available clubhouse facilities or other venue participants congregate in afterwards.
Use of equipment
The sharing of equipment must be avoided where possible, particularly that used around the head and face, such as helmets. Where equipment is shared, equipment must be cleaned before use by another person.
Sports should give consideration on how to protect participants in relation to all equipment use and the risk of transmission, including checking ongoing government research and advice on transmission of the virus and ensuring their guidance reflects it.
Participants should take their kit home to wash it themselves, rather than have one person handling a large quantity of soiled materials. Where kit absolutely has to be shared or kept together (for example last minute stand-in players, shortage of kit, or an essential club function), each person handling it must wash or sanitise their hands immediately after.
Based on the fomite transmission risk assessment sports where a common ball needs to be handled by multiple players (e.g. basketball, cricket, football) will produce a plan to reduce this risk following advice from their governing body.
Match officials, medics and coaches
Match officials, medics and coaches should observe the governing body guidance in the same way as participants. Where legal gathering limits apply, people participating in a work or volunteering capacity (such as match officials, medics and coaches) are exempt and therefore not included in the number of participants. However they must remain socially distanced from players where possible during play. Should match officials not be able to remain socially distanced due to their role in the sport, their sport should conduct a risk assessment to see if other mitigations may be necessary.
Adherence to measures
A code of behaviour should be developed by each sport to ensure a commitment for all involved to adhere to COVID-19 adaptations. Match officials will be empowered to ensure measures are adhered to through appropriate sanctions designed by the NGB. Participants must be clear that they are opting in to participating as defined in the sport-specific guidance with regard to risk and risk mitigation.
There is an additional risk of infection in close proximity situations where people are shouting or conversing loudly. This particularly applies indoors and when face-to-face. If possible, players should therefore avoid shouting or raising their voices when facing each other during, before and after games.
Injuries during play should still be treated as participant wellbeing is of the utmost importance. The best way for physios and other medical personnel to protect themselves and others is through rigorous cleaning, personal hygiene and regular hand hygiene. An increased frequency of cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces and equipment, using standard household cleaning and disinfection products, is recommended. Face coverings are also advisable when undertaking treatment.
After contact with an injured participant, physios and other medical personnel should clean their hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser at the earliest opportunity. This advice is applicable to all situations, regardless of whether there was close contact or the minimum social distancing was maintained. They should also avoid touching their mouth, eyes and nose.
Physios or their equivalent, should keep a record of each participant they have come into contact with, for test and trace purposes.
See further information for those who may need to act as a ‘first responder’ role in a sports setting.
Supporters, parents, and other spectators must adhere to legal gathering limits whilst attending events. In areas with a medium alert rating, spectators can only attend in separate and distinct groups of up to 6 people (or larger groups from the same household or support bubble), which do not mix. If such groups are likely to mix, spectators should not be allowed to attend.
In areas with a high or very high alert rating, spectators can only attend if they do not mix with people from outside their household or support bubble. If households are likely to mix, spectators should not be allowed to attend. The travel guidance above applies to spectators at sport events.
Where it is anticipated that an activity will attract spectators, there should be a named person or persons with responsibility for ensuring adherence with these guidelines and ensuring the facility is COVID-secure. The person should carry out and publish a risk assessment for the activity which limits the number of spectators and focuses on the need to maintain social distancing on arrival, for the duration of the activity, and on departure.
Arrangements should also be put in place to support test and trace efforts by collecting information from spectators which is detailed enough to allow NHS Test and Trace to contact them if necessary. See the maintaining records guidance for further information.
Key principles - facility usage
Indoor sport facilities such as gyms and leisure centres can remain open across all alert levels. However in areas with very high alert ratings, additional measures may be agreed to control the infection rate which may involve closing indoor sport facilities in that area. Where that is the case, provision will remain available for elite athletes, people with disabilities, sport for educational purposes and supervised activities (including sport and physical activity) for under-18s.
For sports reliant on third-party owned or managed facilities adherence to these guidelines should be worked out collaboratively between club and facility. Each facility must have a specific facility operations plan that incorporates a full risk assessment.
Movement on site
All venues must have entry and exit and parking arrangements to venues that ensures social distancing can be maintained.
Venues must display the appropriate signage to facilitate at all points throughout the facility and car park.
Venues will implement traffic flow systems where possible and appropriate.
Venues will outline socially distanced areas for teams, officials and spectators.
Venues will ensure that all accessible provision within the site and the facility are available.
Changing rooms and showers
Where possible, players should arrive changed and shower at home. However, changing and shower facilities can be used provided that venue operators adhere to government advice on the use of indoor facilities.
If these facilities remain closed, exceptions should be made where safety and safeguarding measures require their use, e.g. supporting disability athletes, allowing children to change clothes.
Toilets will need to be opened for pre-match, match and for 30mins following.
Steps that will usually be needed:
Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency and to avoid touching your face, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.
Consider the use of social distancing marking in areas where queues normally form, and the adoption of a limited entry approach, with one in, one out (whilst avoiding the creation of additional bottlenecks).
To enable good hand hygiene consider making hand sanitiser available on entry to toilets where safe and practical, and ensure suitable handwashing facilities including running water and liquid soap and suitable options for drying (either paper towels or hand driers) are available.
Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets, with increased frequency of cleaning in line with usage. Use normal cleaning products, paying attention to frequently hand touched surfaces, and consider use of disposable cloths or paper roll to clean all hard surfaces.
High ventilation in indoor facilities is paramount to reducing transmission of Covid-19; keep the facilities well ventilated, for example by fixing doors open and opening windows where appropriate.
Special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets and larger toilet blocks.
Putting up a visible cleaning schedule can keep it up to date and visible.
Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection. Toilets capacity should be managed via entry and exit as per government guidelines.
Participants will be encouraged to refrain from spitting or rinsing out their mouths on or around the playing area.
Clubhouses and hospitality
Venues will use clubhouses and hospitality facilities in line with government guidance on hospitality settings, and there is specific advice for providers of grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities, which includes rules on closure and additional measures for hospitality settings depending on the local alert rating.
There are restrictions on businesses and venues which will apply to some sport facilities, if they sell food or drinks:
10pm-5am closure: across all alert levels, certain businesses are required to close between 10pm and 5am if they sell food or drinks. While sport facilities such as gyms, leisure centres and sport clubs are not required to close, hospitality areas within those premises which sell food and drink (such as cafes and bars) must close at 10pm. This does not apply to automated dispensing machines such as vending or coffee machines.
Seating/table service: across all levels, where a sport facility sells food and drink to consume on site, customers should be seated while eating and drinking. In licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, and served at, a table.
Closure of pubs and bars: in areas with a very high alert rating, pubs and bars (including those situated within a sport facility) must close except where they are operating like a restaurant - serving substantial meals like a main lunchtime or evening meal. Alcohol can only be served as part of a lunchtime or evening meal.
People using clubhouses and hospitality facilities must adhere to legal gathering limits, in line with wider government guidance. Social interaction can only take place in separate and distinct groups consisting of up to 6 people (medium alert areas) or limited to people from the same household or support bubble (high/very high alert areas).
High ventilation in indoor facilities is paramount to reducing transmission of COVID-19; keep the facilities well ventilated, for example by fixing doors open and opening windows where appropriate.
If facilities remain closed, exceptions must be made for essential activity such as provision of first-aid or access to essential equipment for the match.
Proposals to assist in the mitigation of transmission of COVID-19 through fomites during sport activity
Equipment used both during training and competition phases of sport can act as fomites, a vehicle for carrying the virus, and therefore impacting on the transmission of COVID-19 between individuals. This document aims to assist individuals and organisations in assessing their particular activity, and makes suggestions as to how this route of transmission might be mitigated.
The use of video analysis, of training and competition footage by staff and players, may allow identification of incidents and interactions between athletes and fomites (clothing and equipment). This can help inform decisions outlined in the process below, as to how the risk of any such contact can be mitigated. By involving staff and players in the process there is likely to be increased ‘buy-in’ from all parties.
Step 1 - Identify:
Identify fomites (equipment) used in activity
What is it? [Name]
What is it made of? [Material]
How is it cleaned safely, repeatedly and effectively without degrading it? [Cleaning]
Step 2: Use:
Consider how the fomite is used in activity and how its use might be changed
Reduce overall use
Personal use only
Change fomite to a version which poses less transmission risk
Estimate risk of use - Red Amber Green [Risk] and impact of mitigation
Step 3: Clean and protect:
Cleaning and protection protocols for fomites
When - between or during sessions? (see note 1)
How - time, chemical, heat, light (see note 2)
Protect - Use by individuals (possibly screened) with high levels of personal hygiene3 and facial coverings
Step 4: Educate and monitor
Educate and audit
Educate, re-educate and remind staff and players regarding change in behaviours and use of fomites
1. Cleaning during play might occur if, for instance, a ball goes out of play and is replaced by another clean one. Clothing might be changed at half-time. Equipment might be used every 3 days to allow viral decay
2. Equipment manufacturers should be able to offer advice on cleaning regimes. Staff undertaking cleaning may need suitable PPE
3. The benefits of hand hygiene to protect individuals and equipment are so substantial it is recommended that training and competition have routine hand sanitising breaks incorporated in a similar fashion to water breaks. These should be as athletes enter/leave the field of play and approximately every 20 minutes thereafter. For example, in football this would equate to 5 occasions in a 90 minute match.
Following the structured review of fomite interactions, a risk assessment document should be drawn up to summarise the risks identified, RAG rate them and document the mitigations undertaken to diminish that risk.
A review process should be built in to refine any mitigations and to react in the event of any positive COVID-19 infections and potential changes in government advice, following guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings.
Team sport guidance
The governing bodies below have developed guidance under the principles of the team sport government guidance above. For further information, please see the relevant body website: