Government allows competitive sports to restart under strict commands

The UK government will allow domestic competitive sports to recommence from 1 June, as governing bodies are ordered to obey strict ‘stage three guidance’ ensuring athlete safety and venue hygiene requirements.

This weekend, DCMS published its updated Elite Sports’ guidance, outlining its proposed framework for the return of domestic sports competitions.

The framework of safety requirements and protection measures has been developed by DCMS in collaboration with Public Health England, NHS Chief Medical Officers and representatives of Olympic, Paralympic and elite sports governing bodies.

The government will require all governing bodies to ensure that syndicated venues will feature no public attendance at events.

Governing bodies must also make sure that athletes, staff and participants are informed and adhere to a ‘code of behaviour’ guaranteeing that social distancing and hygiene standards are maintained.

DCMS has urged governing bodies and sports clubs to limit all non-essential activities, maintaining focus on ensuring that venues are ‘COVID-19 proofed’, which will allow the NHS to track and trace participants – athletes, club staff, management, medial staff, broadcast crew etc.

The government also stated that governing bodies must guarantee that their competitive arrangements do not impede or limit emergency services, minimising strains on vital resources.

In its statement, DCMS underlined that it will be up to each sports body to assess and monitor the risk of their individual sports and how it engages safely with stakeholders and communities.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said:” This is a significant moment for British sport. By working with clinicians every step of the way, we are creating the safest possible environments for everyone involved.

“This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions behind closed doors. It is now up to individual sports to confirm they can meet these protocols and decide when it’s right for them to restart.”

Today’s lunchtime meeting at Newcastle (13:00) will see UK racing become the first sports to recommence its competitive fixtures, having been suspended since 18 March.

Having reviewed DCMS guidance, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has backed its raceday safety protocols, stating that they are closely aligned to the government’s stage three requirements.

During a prolonged lockdown period, BHA Chief Medical Adviser Dr Jerry Hill has worked closely with Public Health England to enforce further protections related to horseracing’s unique participants, venues and competition rules.

Restarting its schedule, the BHA will enforce a mandatory screening process of participants and athletes at venues, which will include medical checks before departure and on arrival.

Providing its conditions are met, the BHA is confident that the 2000 Guineas Stakes race meeting at Newmarket Racecourse on 6 June will be the UK’s first televised sports broadcast since lockdown.

Nick Rust, chief executive of the BHA, said:“This is an important stage towards a complete return for our industry and will help protect livelihoods and businesses. The timing is crucial for the breeding sector and we thank the government and officials at DCMS and Public Health England for their assistance in planning a safe return to racing.

“There is still a tough battle ahead before we can get fully back in business but this is a resilient and world-leading industry and we are ready for the task.

“Our plans for returning safely have been developed with the assistance of all the representative bodies in our sport and I believe the public can be reassured by the measures we will have in place. People understand how important it is for industries like ours to get back to work. Our participants know what will be asked of them when they attend a raceday. Together, we’ll stick to social distancing rules and prevent the virus spreading.”

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