With the announcement by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD yesterday to move to Phase 2 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business from Monday June 8th, the Expert Group on Return to Sport today (6th June), released protocols for the safe resumption of further sporting activity in phase 2 (available here). Ireland Active welcome the work of Sport Ireland, the Expert Group and the Department of Transport, Tourism in Sport in putting forward our views regarding a prompt return to sport and fitness activities in a safe and controlled manner. Ireland Active has drafted a guidance note relating to Phase 2 outdoor sport and fitness activities incorporating the Expert Group’s guidance which can be read here (This guidance may be updated as more information is received from government).

The Expert Group clarified that fitness activities and classes that are held in an organized and controlled manner can be undertaken outdoors only from the beginning of Phase 2, on the basis that the group concerned does not exceed 15 people including coaches and trainers, that social distancing can be maintained, that there is no contact, and that the people concerned had not travelled beyond the permitted limits. The Expert Group also advised on the need for organisers of sport and fitness activities to maintain an electronic log of those attending classes for potential contact tracing purposes, as well as minimizing the use of shared equipment in accordance with pre-defined health and safety hygiene protocols. The use of showers and changing facilities should not be permitted also. Many National Governing Bodies of sport (NGBs) and other representative sporting bodies have successfully prepared detailed protocols for their affiliated clubs and members, which the Expert Group considered to be an excellent, informative reference source for private operators.  

Looking beyond Phase 2, the amended Government Roadmap merges some phases which means Phase 4 (20th July) has now become the final re-opening date. While we will seek further clarity from government and the Expert Group on Return to Sport around the detail of Phases 3 & 4 and what activities relevant to our sector are provided for in each, it is assumed that leisure, health & fitness facilities/activities will re-open no later than 20th July.

The closure of gyms and leisure facilities for the past twelve-weeks has impacted on the leisure and fitness industry significantly with almost all of the 10,000 strong staff temporarily laid-off and very little income being generated, with memberships and sporting activities income being frozen. We continue to put public health considerations at the forefront of our activities and in preparing detailed safe operating protocols. COVID-19 specific training and response plans have been prepared by Ireland Active for operating under these restricted conditions due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, preparations are well underway in our member’s facilities to accommodate the resumption of a host of sport and fitness activities in line with Covid-19 safe operation protocols and we look forward to working with Government, Sport Ireland, Swim Ireland and other partner organisations in the safe return of operations.

Q: Can multiple groups of 15 meet and train under Phase Two?         

If sufficient space is available than more than one group can conduct an activity simultaneously. However it is advised that space should be maximised where possible for participants in order to risk mitigate.

  • Groups should act independently, there should be no interaction between groups.
  • Start and finish times of different groups should be staggered to allow appropriate flow and minimise congregation of people.
  • Shorter duration sessions will likely reduce risk.

NGBs will need to assess as to how many groups can safely exercise concomitantly on a pitch or training area.

To have two groups on a pitch there may have to be less than 15 in the group in order to participate safely. Attention should be given as to whether equipment (i.e. a ball) can cross over to other group and a greater distance between groups should be sought if this is possible.

There should be no more than two groups on a games pitch or training area at one time.

Expert Group on Return to Sport Guidance for Outdoor Sports and Fitness

From Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport 

Published at: 6 June 2020

The Expert Group on Return to Sport would advise organisers to consider the following guidance. This guidance should not be considered exhaustive, and organisers are advised to consult other official sources, in particular the advice published by the HSE.

• In advance of the activity, participants should be asked to travel to the activity venue alone or with members of the same household. Sharing transport is not advised in this Phase of the Roadmap.

• Encourage participants not to congregate at the beginning or end of the activity. Ask participants to arrive as close as possible to the activity start time, or to wait in their cars until the activity begins.

• Participants should be asked to bring their own water bottles, towels and where possible personal equipment, and instructed not to share these with others. Personal equipment should only be shared with people from the same household.

• Participants should be asked to wash hands on arrival, if possible, or to use hand sanitiser. If it is not possible to provide hand sanitiser at your location, participants should be asked to bring their own hand sanitiser with them.

• Individual equipment provided to participants should be cleaned and sanitised before and after each activity session. It is recommended that time is scheduled between sessions to enable thorough cleaning and sanitisation to be conducted.

• Sharing of equipment should be avoided wherever possible, as it is generally not permitted in this Phase of the Roadmap. If absolutely necessary, equipment should be cleaned and sanitised between use.

• Participants should be spaced appropriately to maintain a minimum 2 metre physical distancing throughout the activity. Depending on the nature of the activity, it may be necessary to leave more space between participants.

• Participants should be encouraged to adopt good respiratory hygiene, covering their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze, and using a tissue which is immediately disposed of. Further guidance on hygiene and social distancing is available from www.hse.ie/covid19

• All participants should be advised to stay home if they feel unwell, and to consult their GP. If a participant becomes unwell during the activity, they should be isolated from other participants and return home as soon as possible.

The Expert Group emphasises that indoor sporting facilities are not permitted to reopen during this Phase of the Roadmap. All activity should be in outdoor facilities; the use of showers and changing facilities should not be permitted.

The Expert Group also recommends that organisers maintain an electronic record of all participants for all sessions, with contact details. This will help to facilitate contact tracing in the event that a participant becomes ill with COVID-19.