Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): grassroots sports guidance for safe provision including team sport, contact combat sport and organised sport events

Information on how to safely provide grassroots sport and physical activity during COVID restrictions, including the team sport framework, contact combat sport framework, and advice on organised sport participation events

The government has published the COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England. This explains how the government intends to ease restrictions over time.

This guidance includes changes to restrictions for step 2, which come into force on 12 April. It will be updated ahead of further steps, which are set out in the roadmap.

Introduction

Where people can participate in sport and activities with others, it must be done as safely as possible. That is why the national governing bodies of each sport must produce an action plan to set out how people can participate in their chosen sport safely. For team sports and contact combat sports, this guidance must be approved by government before the sport can resume as an organised sport. The risk of any activity cannot be completely eradicated, but with caution and care, risks can be reduced and the benefits of sport enjoyed fully again.

What this guidance covers

This guidance sets out the information national governing bodies and other organisations need to develop action plans and guidance. It also includes the team sport framework, contact combat sport framework, and specific guidance on delivering organised sport participation events (such as races and organised walking groups).

You can find further information on how to organise and take part in sport and physical activity in the grassroots sport guidance for the public and sport providers.

There is separate guidance for elite sport.

Understanding “organised sport”

Where the rules mention ‘organised’ sport, this means sport which is formally organised by a qualified instructor, club, national governing body, company or charity and follows sport-specific guidance. If the sport is not organised by one of these groups (for example, some friends having a kickabout) or the sport’s NGB guidance is not being followed (for example, a football club ignoring the FA’s guidance), this is considered to be informal or self-organised sport.

Taking part in organised sport sometimes means that other restrictions such as legal gathering limits don’t apply during the activity. This is because the organising body has considered the risks and set out ways to mitigate them so people can participate safely.

Informal or self-organised sport is not covered by any exemptions, and can only take place within the legal gathering limits which otherwise apply to social contact: in groups of up to 6 people, or 2 households including bubbles.

If you do not follow the processes below to draw up an action plan and publish appropriate guidance explaining how people can participate safely in your sport (which, for team sports and contact combat sports, will also need to be approved by government), your sport will not be considered to be an organised sport. This means that the benefits of being an organised sport (such as exemption from legal gathering limits for outdoor sport) will not apply to people who participate in your sport.

All sports and physical activity: guidance and key considerations

Guidance and approval

All organised sports providers should undertake a risk assessment for their sport at grassroots level and publish guidance on how to participate safely. The considerations and key principles that organised sports providers must take into account are set out below.

In addition, team sports and contact combat sports will need to have their action plans approved by the government before they can operate. They must follow the processes set out below in the team sport framework and the contact combat sport framework. Those NGBs and organisations which have had their guidance approved through these processes will be listed at the bottom of this page.

1. Action plan and risk assessment

All organised sports providers should undertake a risk assessment for their sport and determine the level of risk for their sport and how they can work to mitigate it. This process is designed to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission while taking part in sport and physical activity, and enabling participants to make an informed decision about their own risk. Risk assessments should be completed in line with guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

According to current evidence, COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces – usually those that are frequently touched. Airborne transmission also occurs and is particularly important indoors, in close proximity environments such as when participating in some sport, and in specific settings where certain procedures or sports treatments are performed.

Each action plan should include an assessment of the transmission risk within that sport or activity, based on three key variables:

  • Droplet and aerosol transmission: The risk associated with each action in an activity based on duration and proximity of participants. By using the framework, sports and activities can determine the risk of actions in their 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.

Organised sport providers should use their risk assessment to develop an action plan for safe participation, setting out the transmission risk of the relevant sport or activity, and demonstrating its mitigations, how it plans to operate, and any adaptations required. This includes any relevant modifications to limit higher-risk aspects of the sport/activity, and to adhere to other relevant measures. It should also consider how compliance with infection control measures will be achieved.

The sport-specific action plan 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 higher level of transmission risk. It should also set out how sport clubs and providers should collect information to support NHS Test and Trace.

2. Guidance

All organised sports providers, including NGBs, should publish guidance on how to participate safely, including any modifications required to the game. This should be made available on your website and distributed to clubs / leagues / providers so they can ensure they are following the latest guidance and taking appropriate measures.

Organised sport providers should update their guidance when needed to reflect any relevant changes to measures such as gathering limits.

Sports and activities in which people primarily compete as individuals (such as organised sport participation events, tennis or golf) do not need to submit their action plans to the government for approval.

Team sports and contact combat sports should have their guidance approved before they can operate. They must follow the processes set out below in the team sport framework and the contact combat sport framework. Those NGBs and organisations which have had their guidance approved will be listed at the bottom of this page.

Where a sport requires approval, the NGB’s or organised sports provider’s website should clearly set out that people should not participate in the sport until it has been approved. Once approval has been received, the guidance should be published (for example, on the relevant organisation’s website).

Organised sport providers that deliver NGB activities must ensure they follow the NGB’s sport-specific guidance and have the appropriate measures in place to offer their sport or activity safely. Each individual provider should undertake their own risk assessment, including ensuring that operators, organisers and volunteers are aware of modifications to game-play or activity structure. They should also write their own action plan to be distributed to all relevant personnel, including coaches and welfare officers.

3. Sanctions for non-compliance

Sporting activities are permitted despite wider restrictions on leisure activities because of the benefits of sport and physical activity for people’s physical and mental wellbeing. If people act irresponsibly when participating in sport (including off the pitch, and when socialising before and after any activity) they jeopardize public health and undermine the case for safe sport to take place.

National governing bodies and organised sport providers should ensure that clubs, leagues and providers are running activities safely, and should take action to address any issues. This includes putting in place additional measures or suspending players, teams, leagues or clubs which do not adhere to guidance.

If there are serious or consistent concerns with a particular sport which the NGB or organised sport provider cannot or does not address, approval may be revoked so that the sport cannot take place.

Key Principle 1 - Off-field activity

Sport providers should put in place measures to limit transmission risk from off-field activity, including:

  • Limiting the time spent congregating at a venue before and after sporting activity. This could involve having strict meeting times or staggering start times, and advising participants to arrive in kit and ready to warm-up.
  • Minimising use of changing rooms and shower facilities. Changing rooms can open but their use should be discouraged. You should inform customers that these are areas of increased risk, that they should shower and change at home where possible, and, if they do need to use changing rooms, they should minimise time spent inside. When using indoor facilities such as toilets, people should not mix with others they do not live with (or share a relevant bubble with) unless an exemption applies.
  • Ensuring that participants maintain social distancing throughout warm-ups and when not on the field of play (e.g. awaiting substitutions), and limit higher-risk activities like spitting or shouting (particularly when facing each other).
  • Ensuring that participants adhere to legal gathering limits. Social interaction before and after playing any sport should only take place outdoors, in a group of up to 6 people, or as a group of two households including bubbles. Exceptions may be made where safety and safeguarding measures require this, such as supporting participants with disabilities (though minimal time should be spent waiting or in changing rooms).
  • Avoiding equipment-sharing where possible. Teams should limit the number of players handling the same ball during warm-ups, and ensure the balls are frequently sanitised.
  • Advising participants to bring their own water bottles and ensure they are labelled or highly distinguishable. Water bottles or other refreshment containers should not be shared under any circumstances.
  • Advising participants to 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.

Key Principle 2 - prior to activity

Club preparation

Clubs and providers are only operating as an organised sport where they are following the relevant organised sport provider guidance and have the appropriate measures in place to offer their sport safely. Each provider should undertake a risk assessment, including ensuring that operators, organisers and volunteers are aware of modifications to game-play or activity structure. Risk assessments should be completed in line with guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Clubs and providers should write their own action plan to be distributed to all relevant personnel, including coaches and welfare officers. This should also take account of wider government guidance on grassroots sport and facilities. A checklist to support clubs to put the appropriate measures in place should be made available. This should include participants being asked to consider if their underlying health may caution against participation, and could include providing specific training for those in charge of the session, if required.

All clubs running activities for under-18s in out-of-school settings should consult the Department for Education’s 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.

NHS Test and Trace

The rules on NHS Test and Trace have changed.

If this applies to you, you must ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to scan the NHS QR code using their NHS COVID-19 app or provide their name and contact details, not just a lead member of the group. This is to ensure everyone receives the necessary public health advice in a timely manner.

Hospitality facilities (including restaurants, cafes or bars within other types of venue) are legally required to refuse entry to those who refuse to check in or provide their contact details.

You can find more information in the NHS Test and Trace guidance.

Many sport providers and facilities are required to keep a record of participants and staff, to support NHS Test and Trace.

This includes:

  • indoor sport facilities
  • gyms and leisure centres
  • clubs providing team sport activities
  • outdoor swimming pools and lidos
  • sport and massage therapists
  • services provided for social and recreational purposes in youth and community centres and village halls
  • hospitality venues (such as pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars) within a sport facility

However this does not apply to all providers and facilities (for example, in outdoor sport facilities in public places it is not possible or practical to collect information from all spectators), so you should check the NHS Test and Trace guidance to see if this applies to you.

If this applies to your sport provision or facility, you need to keep these records for 21 days and make them available when requested by NHS Test and Trace or local public health officials, to help contain clusters or outbreaks. You must also display an official NHS QR code poster so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details.

What you must do

  • Ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to provide their name and contact details.

  • Keep a record of all staff working on your 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, so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ using this option, as an alternative to providing their contact details. However, you must still have a system to collect (and securely store) names and contact details for those who do not have access to a smartphone.

  • Ensure you manage this information in line with data protection regulations.

This is a legal requirement and failure to comply is punishable by fines. Your NGB’s guidance will set out the process you should follow to collect information, and you can find more detailed advice in the NHS Test and Trace guidance.

Pre-attendance 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 or to spectate if they, or someone they live with, have 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.

An individual who displays any such symptoms must follow NHS and PHE guidance on self-isolation

Participants should be made aware of any increased risk associated with taking part in your sport, based on your risk assessment. 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

Organised sports providers must ensure their plans align with government guidance on safer travel. You should advise your participants to minimise travel and avoid making unnecessary journeys (for example, by combining their trips where possible).

From 12 April, domestic overnight stays (including for sport) are permitted in certain types of accommodation, within your household or support/childcare bubble. Organised sports providers must ensure their plans align with travel restrictions and wider government

Key principle 3 - during activity

As an organised sport provider, your specific action plan must take into account the COVID-19 infection risks inherent to your sport or activity (such as physical contact between participants or prolonged face proximity). Having completed the droplet and aerosol transmission risk assessment, each sport may introduce ‘COVID-19 adaptations’ to reduce the frequency of higher-risk activities, and measures you will take to reduce risk or to comply with restrictions.

This should also set out how you can take action to reduce the general risks of any sporting activity, using social distancing and avoiding unnecessary mixing such as pre-game handshakes, huddles, face-to-face confrontation with opponents and officials, and scoring celebrations.

Adherence to measures

Your guidance should set out a code of behaviour to ensure that clubs / deliverers/ coaches /instructors commit to operating within COVID-19 guidance. You should empower match officials to ensure measures are adhered to through appropriate sanctions. Clubs and providers should ensure participants are aware that they are choosing to take part in the modified version of the game, including any relevant COVID-19 measures, and should comply with these measures as a condition of participation.

On-field activity

You should put in place measures to limit transmission risk from off-field activity, including:

  • Putting in place any modifications to game-play required (e.g. limits on numbers for indoor activity, reducing physical contact or face-to-face exposure), and additional mitigations to reduce unnecessary contact, such as removing pre-game handshakes, face-to-face interaction, and scoring celebrations. Participants should refrain from spitting or rinsing out their mouths on or around the playing area.
  • Putting in place measures so that participants remain socially distanced during breaks in play with spaced areas for equipment and refreshment storage, 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.
  • Advising participants to bring their own water bottles and ensure they are labelled or highly distinguishable. Water bottles or other refreshment containers should not be shared under any circumstances.
  • Avoiding equipment-sharing 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 where a ball needs to be handled by multiple players (e.g. basketball, cricket, football) must put in place measures to reduce the transmission risk (e.g. pausing play to sanitise the ball at regular intervals).
  • Discouraging unnecessary transmission risk from shouting and conversing loudly, particularly in close proximity situations and when face-to-face. Coaches and substitutes should refrain from shouting, and those on the pitch should avoid it where possible.

Match officials, medics and coaches

Match officials should be empowered to ensure that COVID-secure measures are adhered to, and to enforce this through appropriate sanctions.

Match officials, medics, instructors and coaches should observe the organised sport providers 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 participants 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.

Injury treatment

Injuries should still be treated, as participant safety is of the utmost importance. Physios and other medical personnel should take care to protect themselves and others through rigorous cleaning and personal hygiene, including increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting equipment and surfaces. Wearing face coverings is recommended for both medics and patients, where this is possible and practical.

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 and medical personnel should keep a record of each participant they have come into contact with, to support NHS Test and Trace. Advice set out above in the section on NHS Test and Trace may be helpful, and you can find more detail in the guidance on NHS Test and Trace. Records should be kept for 21 days and then destroyed.

Those working at a sport event should familiarise themselves with the guidance for first responders, in case of emergency situations.

Spectators

Spectators are not permitted to attend sporting events taking place on private land, other than adults needed to supervise under-18s that they have a responsibility for or providing care or assistance to a person with disabilities participating in an organised sporting event or activity. They should maintain social distance and not mix with other households.

This does not prevent people from viewing recreational or organised sport that is taking place in a public space, e.g. a park, in groups of up to 6 people or 2 households.

However, sporting events that are intended to attract spectators (including ticketed events), or events that are likely to attract a significant number of spectators (e.g. a major marathon) should not take place in a public space, or on private land, until Step 3.

When spectators are permitted in future:

  • Spectators must adhere to the legal gathering limits, and social distancing should be maintained by people who do not live together (or share a support/childcare bubble).
  • Spectators should minimise shouting or raising their voices. There is an additional risk of infection where people are shouting or singing in close proximity to others (particularly indoors and when face-to face).

Compliance and enforcement

  • It is important that all spectators (including supporters, parents and others) adhere to the legal gathering limits. In addition to being legal requirements punishable by fines, those violating the measures are endangering public safety and undermining the case for safe sport to be allowed to take place.
  • You should work with clubs and providers to address issues with spectators or participants not adhering to measures. But if there are serious or consistent issues with spectators you should consider further action, including suspending the relevant sport provider from running any leagues / matches / events until this has been addressed.

Key Principle 4 - facility usage

Your risk assessment and guidance should also take into account the use of any relevant facilities for your sport. Providers which will work with or operate facilities should review the sport facility guidance in full, but the key points NGBs must consider in risk assessments are summarised below.

Movement on site

All venues must have entry, exit and parking arrangements that ensure social distancing can be maintained, with appropriate signage. Venues should also implement traffic-flow systems where possible and appropriate. Venues should outline socially distanced areas for teams, participants, officials and spectators as required. Venues should ensure that access for people with disabilities is maintained.

Changing rooms, showers and toilets

In sport facilities which can open to the public, changing rooms can be opened but their use should be discouraged. You should inform participants that these are areas of increased risk and that they should shower and change at home where possible.

If participants do need to use changing rooms, they should minimise time spent inside, maintain social distancing from people they do not live with (or share a relevant bubble with). More than one household can use changing facilities at one time but they must not mix. Any relevant capacity limits must be adhered to at all times.

Team talks/briefings and other gatherings should not take place in changing rooms under any circumstances. This does not apply to essential activity such as the provision of first aid or access to essential equipment for training and matches.

You should follow any relevant measures in the sport facility guidance.

Clubhouses and hospitality

Sport providers and participants can use clubhouses and hospitality facilities in line with government guidance on hospitality settings, and there is specific advice for sport facility operators. People using clubhouses and hospitality facilities must adhere to legal gathering limits and wider government guidance.

If facilities remain closed, exceptions must be made for essential activity such as the provision of first aid or access to essential equipment for training and matches.

Ventilation and venue capacity

Ventilation is an important part of reducing the transmission of COVID-19. Ventilation into any building should be optimised to ensure a fresh air supply is provided to all areas of the facility and increased wherever possible.

You can do this through mechanical ventilation, and by opening doors and windows. You must also ensure that you stay within the capacity limit of your facility (100sqft per person) as this increases the effectiveness of your ventilation system.

Particular attention should be given to areas where high-intensity exercise takes place.

The maximum occupancy of each indoor facility should be limited by providing a minimum of 100sqft per person. This includes the net usable indoor facility space available to members to use, including changing rooms, toilet and washing facilities.

You can find more detail on ventilation in the sport facility guidance.

Team sport framework

All team sports should follow the steps above to develop risk assessments, guidance and action plans for their sport. This should be prepared by the national governing body of the sport recognised by Sport England (more information on recognition and a list of recognised NGBs can be found on Sport England’s website).

In addition, NGBs of team sports should submit their action plan and relevant guidance to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) at sportsCOVID19@dcms.gov.uk, which will confirm receipt. The documents will be reviewed by DCMS, which will determine whether the proposals adequately control risk and are consistent with government guidance and wider public health restrictions. Some sports (particularly those which involve higher-risk activities) will also need to be approved by Public Health England

Until your proposal for grassroots sport provision has been approved, your sport is not considered to be organised, so activity that goes beyond legal gathering limits should not take place. Where you are awaiting approval, your website should clearly set out that people should not participate in your sport unless the activity complies with legal gathering limits.

Sports which involve high-risk elements (such as prolonged face proximity) should be modified to be played safely. This will include changes to limit contact activity for some sports such as rugby union and rugby league.

Once DCMS has confirmed that the sport’s guidance has been approved, the national governing body will be linked at the bottom of this page. You should publish your guidance on your website so that your sport can resume safely. Team sports which have been approved previously by DCMS do not need to resubmit their guidance.

Sports in which people primarily compete as individuals (such as walking, tennis or golf) do not need to submit their action plans to the government for approval.

Contact combat sport framework

This document sets out guidance on how to work, operate and participate in recreational contact combat sport safely while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Following the steps below allows contact combat sports and martial arts to take place with appropriate mitigations, whilst maintaining appropriate compliance with social distancing and legal gathering limits. This is only permitted if this guidance for each sport is fully implemented by a national governing body for each contact combat sport, including an action plan which takes into account risks and mitigations for the relevant sport. Compliance with legal gathering limits and social distancing must be maintained at all times when not in training or competition.

Mitigating risks

The purpose of this guidance is to provide the necessary mitigations to enable the return of recreational contact combat sport. The framework below recognises the inherent risk in contact combat sport and is designed to minimise COVID-19 transmission risk and enable participants to make an informed decision about their own risk.

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 but also direct contact with an infected person). Airborne transmission also occurs and is particularly important indoors, in close proximity environments such as occur when participating in some sport.

In the context of what is known about COVID-19 transmission, about combat sport, and about the incidence of asymptomatic but still infectious illness, combat sport is a high-risk activity. Almost all human-to-human transmission is likely to occur at close range (<2m). Contact combat sports involve very close range and sustained contact with other people, and all participants must be made aware of this inherent risk.

Contact combat sport action plans and guidance

Each individual sport must undergo a risk assessment for their sport and determine the level of risk for their sport and how they can work to mitigate it. This process is designed to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission while taking part in sport and physical activity, and enabling participants to make an informed decision about their own risk. Risk assessments should be completed in line with guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and there is further advice on COVID-19 risk assessments in the sport facility guidance.

Action plans should include an assessment of the transmission risk for their sport. For contact combat sports, the following factors should be considered:

  • Droplet transmission and aerosol generation: the risk associated with each action in an activity based on duration and proximity of participants. Contact combat sports involve very close range and sustained contact with other people.

  • Fomite transmission: the risk associated with the direct contact between participants during the sport, and equipment and surfaces used in the delivery and participation of the sport. The risk of fomite transmission from skin and blood-borne diseases on training and competition surfaces is a consistent risk for contact combat sports. Contact combat sports’ national governing bodies should have well-developed guidance and protocols for reducing the risk of fomite transmission and should ensure that these are updated to reflect the specific risks of transmission of COVID-19.

  • 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. As contact combat sports are individual sports, population management is a suitable risk mitigation mechanism.

Who can submit a guidance document?

Each contact combat sport may only have a single guidance document for their activity. Commercial providers of contact combat sports must ensure that their clubs/instructors are following the guidance issued by the relevant body for that sport/martial art they are delivering. Each guidance document that is submitted for approval should include proposals for all four phases of the return to contact combat sport framework (Phases 0, 1, 2 and 3).

Recognised national governing bodies

Contact combat sports which have a national governing body recognised by Sport England will be allowed to submit guidance for government review. The NGB should submit their action plan and relevant guidance to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) at sportsCOVID19@dcms.gov.uk, which will confirm receipt. The documents will be reviewed by DCMS, which will determine whether the proposals adequately control risk and are consistent with government guidance and wider public health restrictions. Some sports (particularly those which involve higher-risk activities) will also need to be confirmed by Public Health England.

Until your contact combat sport or martial art has been approved, activity above Phase 0 (non-contact, socially distanced activity) of the contact combat sport framework cannot take place. Your website and communications to your membership, sport providers, instructors and coaches should clearly set out that people should not participate in any contact activity.

Once DCMS has confirmed that the contact combat sport or martial art has been approved, the national governing body will be linked at the bottom of this page. You should publish your guidance on your website, and make your guidance accessible to your membership, sport providers, instructors and coaches, so that your sport can resume safely.

Contact combat sports which do not have a recognised governing body

Sports which do not have a recognised national governing body can still only submit one document for the relevant sport. If you are a national governing body which is not recognised by Sport England, you will need to provide further details on the landscape of your sport and how you have worked with other bodies to create a single plan for the sport. This information should be submitted to Sport England at Returntoplay@sportengland.org who will support you to develop a sport-specific action plan.

Once a single plan for the sport has been developed, including details of the organisations that have worked together to create the guidance and will then use the guidance, it should be submitted to DCMS for review at sportsCOVID19@dcms.gov.uk to undergo the same process as for recognised national governing bodies.

Phased introduction of contact combat sport

This framework sets out a phased return to contact combat sport utilising population control as the key mitigating factor to reduce the risk of transmission. In all phases the key principles outlined in this guidance must be followed. Contact combat sports should only allow activities within the relevant phase to take place.

Approved contact combat sports can resume the following activity at these stages of the roadmap:

  • Step 1A (8 March): organised contact combat sport activities can resume at phase 2 of the framework, where it is sport for educational purposes or as part of wrap-around care for eligible children.

  • Step 1B (29 March): organised contact combat sport activities can resume outdoors at phase 2 for children, and at phase 1 for adults.

  • Step 2 (12 April):

    Outdoors, organised contact combat sport activities can resume at phase 2 for children, and phase 1 for adults.

    Indoors, organised contact combat sport activities can resume at phase 2 for children. Adults can resume indoors at phase 1, but any activity that does not meet social distancing guidance (such as contact or pad work) can only take place between people from the same household or support bubble.

National governing bodies are responsible for ensuring the phases are moved through gradually to ensure a duty of care for participants during their return to play. This should be reflected in the approved guidance document.

Phase 0: non-contact socially distanced activity

At phase 0, contact combat sports may resume non-contact training. This means that they should only train individually and there should be no activity with others, including with equipment (such as pad work). Clubs, providers and participants must adhere to legal gathering limits, social distancing guidelines and venue requirements, as set out in government guidelines.

Phase 1: return to equipment training

At phase 1, contact combat sports can resume contact training. They can train with others and do not have to maintain 2m social distance. This is solely for the use of training with handheld and wearable equipment (such as pad work), and during this phase there should be no direct personal contact or contact with clothing. Sports should provide guidance on whether (and what type of) personal protective equipment (PPE) is appropriate for individuals holding or wearing contact equipment.

Training which involves contact should take place within ‘training bubbles’, in accordance with the relevant social contact rules at that step of the roadmap. Individuals may only be part of a single bubble at an individual club/gym. Individuals may not be part of multiple bubbles at the same or at different venues (for example a coach may not train with a bubble of similarly experienced participants and then become a coach for a less experienced group; a children’s instructor may not coach more than one group of children, even on separate days). Coaches or participants holding or wearing the equipment are considered to be part of the bubble.

Coaches or officials who operate socially distanced from bubbles and are not holding or wearing equipment can operate across bubbles or multiple gyms. However, even when socially distanced, coaches or officials may wish to limit the number of bubbles or facilities they work with to limit exposure, and should make clear to facility operators if they work across multiple venues. Where possible, socially distanced training should be maintained for all participants.

For under-18s and where the activity is for educational purposes (e.g. students studying sport at further or higher education), the training bubble may be up to 15 participants. Participants in a training bubble should not mix with others in different bubbles, before, during or after the training activity.

Phase 2: return to contact training

At phase 2, contact combat sports may resume contact training which includes direct physical contact between participants.

Training which involves contact should take place within ‘training bubbles’, in accordance with the relevant social contact rules at that step of the roadmap.

Individuals may only be part of a single bubble at an individual club or gym. Individuals may not be part of multiple bubbles at the same or at different venues. For example, a coach may not train with a bubble of similarly experienced participants and then become a coach for a less experienced group. A children’s instructor may not coach more than one group of children, even on separate days. Coaches or participants holding or wearing the equipment are considered part of the bubble.

Coaches or officials who operate socially distanced from bubbles and are not holding or wearing equipment can operate across bubbles or multiple gyms. However, even when socially distanced, coaches or officials may wish to limit the number of bubbles or facilities they work with to limit exposure, and should make clear to facility operators if they work across multiple venues. Where possible, socially distanced training should be maintained for all participants.

For under-18s and where the activity is for educational purposes (e.g. students studying sport at further or higher education), the training bubble may be up to 15 participants. Participants in a training bubble should not mix with others in different bubbles, before, during or after the training activity.

Phase 3: return to competition

At phase 3, contact combat sports may resume competition between participants.

The provision of competition, including the number of participants permitted to take part, should be determined adhering to legal gathering limits, and dependent on venue capacity (see guidance above on ventilation and venue capacity). For under-18s and where the sport is for educational purposes, up to 15 people may engage in contact combat sports competition. Participants may not mix with other participants, before, during or after the event.

The number of participants set out in legal gathering limits does not include coaches, officials and others attending for work purposes (e.g. event staff), but these numbers must be minimised. Sports should provide guidance on whether (and what type of) personal protective equipment (PPE) is appropriate for individuals holding or wearing contact equipment.

Competition activities in phase 3 should be organised with a minimum 2-week break between phase 3 activities. Phase 1 and 2 activities may continue during this time. Individual sports action plans should set out clearly who is responsible for adhering to measures and maintaining records of phase 3 activities.

Organised sport participation events

Organised sport participation events such as races, rides and organised walks can take place outdoors with any number of participants. Organisers must complete a COVID-secure risk assessment in alignment with the guidance below.

Key principles for organised sport participation events

As well as taking account of general principles around mitigating risks and taking full responsibility for the safe delivery of a sporting event, organisers should ensure they are:

  • operating strictly within government guidance and ensuring event delivery plans are COVID-secure
  • communicating clearly and consistently with all participants and support staff including volunteers
  • being adaptable to change, for example if a local lockdown were to be necessary
  • adhering to the legal gathering limits for their area (including regularly checking for changes that may affect provision)
  • maintaining a record of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace
  • ensuring physical and personal hygiene standards can be maintained
  • keeping participants, officials, volunteers, and staff safe (including any necessary personal protective equipment or face coverings)
  • ensuring access to temporary or permanent toilets and changing facilities (particularly for those with special needs and disabilities)
  • adhering to guidance on traveling to and from events
  • adhering to relevant guidance for the use of car parks, restaurants and clubhouses and other guidance on sport facilities
  • ensuring there is accessible provision within the site and the facility

Event delivery plan and guidance

Each event organiser should conduct a risk assessment (in line with guidance from the Health and Safety Executive) and use this to produce a written delivery plan and any related guidance, demonstrating its mitigations, how it plans to operate including responsibility for overseeing compliance, and any adaptations required. There is further advice on COVID-19 risk assessments in the sport facility guidance.

Delivery plans should take into account that there are three variables of transmission. Each event organiser should provide an assessment of the transmission risk that a return to the event represents based on three key variables:

  • Droplet transmission and aerosol generation: the risk associated with each action in an activity based on duration and proximity of participants.

  • Fomite transmission: the risk associated with the handling and transfer of equipment in the activity.

  • Population: the number of participants likely to take part in the proposed activity, and the known risk factors of participants with underlying health conditions or high-risk groups who wish to participate.

Based on this overall risk profile some sport and physical activity events will be lower-risk than others and better suited to return to activity earlier with or without adaptation.

All events should ensure that they comply with the relevant national governing body safeguarding policies and procedures. For events reliant on third party-owned or managed facilities, adherence to this government guidance should be worked out collaboratively (with reference to the guidance for sport facilities).

Particular consideration needs to be given to children and young people under the age of 18 and vulnerable adults. Event organisers should commit to demonstrating to their normal licensing authorities that these principles are adhered to throughout the planning and delivery of the event.

Participants

The event timetable should be designed to permit only as many attendees so that social distancing can be maintained at any given time. The event areas must be designed in order to maximise the available space for each participant.

Where possible, event organisers should ensure that event briefings for participants should be delivered in advance of the event day, with considerations given to suitable methods of communication to inform participants of any last-minute changes.

You should avoid unnecessary breaking of social distancing such as handshakes, huddles, and celebrations between participants.

Spectators

  • Spectators are not permitted to attend sporting events taking place on private land, other than adults needed to supervise under-18s that they have a responsibility for or providing care or assistance to a person with disabilities participating in an organised sporting event or activity. They should maintain social distance and not mix with other households.
  • This does not prevent people from viewing recreational or organised sport that is taking place in a public space, e.g. a park, in groups of up to 6 people or 2 households.
  • However, sporting events that are intended to attract spectators (including ticketed events), or events that are likely to attract a significant number of spectators (e.g. a major marathon) should not take place in a public space, or on private land, until Step 3.

When spectators are permitted in future, they must adhere to the legal gathering limits. They can only attend in a group of up to 6 people, or a group of 2 households including bubbles. Social distancing should be maintained by people who do not live together (or share a support/childcare bubble). Crowding or congregation must be strictly avoided. If there is any risk of mixing between groups, the event should not go ahead.

Spectators should minimise shouting or raising their voices. There is an additional risk of infection where people are shouting or singing in close proximity to others (particularly indoors and when face-to face).

The course

Event organisers must ensure that pre-start assembly areas, the start line and holding areas are designed so that participants do not need to assemble at the start of the event in a manner which conflicts with social distancing guidelines. Event organisers should consider rolling start times to allow social distancing to be maintained.

The capacity and density of the participants on the course should allow for social distancing wherever possible. Organisers should consider pinch-points on the course before, during and after the event and manage them in line with government guidance on social distancing. Other non-essential activities that may undermine social distancing (such as entertainment) should be withdrawn.

Potential contact points such as the handling of medals, timing chips and numbers should be managed appropriately. Participants should be discouraged from bringing any equipment, baggage, or clothing that is not essential for their participation in the event, and should as far as possible make their own arrangements for safe storage. Where these need to be stored centrally, it is preferable that only the owner should handle the equipment. If others need to handle it, strict hand hygiene measures should be observed.

Access to food and drink stations should be provided in such a way that social distancing can still be observed by officials and participants. Mitigations should be put in place to ensure risks are managed as much as possible in these environments. All hospitality services are subject to requirements set out in the guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services.

Health and medical provision

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 report or demonstrate any such symptoms, they must follow NHS and PHE guidance on self-isolation.

Participants must be made aware of any increased risk associated with taking part in activity, based on the assessment undertaken by the organised sport provider. They should also be strongly advised to comply with public health restrictions and avoid high-risk behaviour outside the sport setting, to reduce the risk to their fellow participants when they do attend.

Event organisers should undertake, in conjunction with local NHS services, detailed and continuous assessments to ensure there are no detrimental impacts of staging the event on the wider community and healthcare systems.

Injuries should still be treated, as participant safety is of the utmost importance. Physios and other medical personnel should take care to protect themselves and others through rigorous cleaning and personal hygiene, including increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting equipment and surfaces. Wearing face coverings is recommended for both medics and patients, where this is possible and practical.

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 and medical personnel should keep a record of each participant they have come into contact with, to support NHS Test and Trace. Advice set out above in the section on NHS Test and Trace may be helpful, and you can find more detail in the guidance on NHS Test and Trace. Records should be kept for 21 days and then destroyed.

Those working at a sport event should familiarise themselves with the guidance for first responders, in case of emergency situations.

Appendix

Appendix 1

A team sports risk exposure framework to inform risk mitigation strategies and support test and trace

A team sports risk exposure framework to inform risk mitigation strategies and support test and trace

Appendix 2

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.

Assessment process

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

  • Monitor effectiveness

Notes

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.

Appendix 3

Approved team sports and contact combat sports

Team sports and contact combat sports are required to submit their action plans and relevant guidance for approval before they can resume as organised sports, to determine whether the proposals adequately control risk and are consistent with government guidance and wider public health restrictions. The relevant governing bodies in the list below have been reviewed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (and Public Health England for higher-risk activities) and their proposals have been approved. This does not include individual sports, which are not listed as they do not require approval.

For further information, please see the guidance published on their websites:

Published 1 December 2020
Last updated 8 April 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to include information on Step 2 of the roadmap.

  2. Updated to include changes to national restrictions

  3. Updated guidance covering national restrictions in England from 6 January.

  4. Updated to include tier 4 guidance.

  5. Update to include clarification on personal training in Tier 3

  6. First published.