Many of the UK’s sports facilities have spent the pandemic in a constant state of flux. Most venues have had to deal with being closed, then reopened, then restricted, then closed again – aside from those which have remained closed since March 2020.
The government’s roadmap out of lockdown, announced on Monday 22 February 2021, finally gives sports clubs, schools and venue operators the confidence to begin planning a full reopening of their facilities. In order to reopen successfully and safely, each venue owner/operator needs to consider the impact the prolonged shutdown has had on their facilities.
To assist in the process of reopening facilities, SAPCA has developed a reopening guide and checklist, which is applicable to most indoor and outdoor sports facilities.
Hopefully, essential maintenance has been carried out on facilities throughout the closures, especially on those which have remained shut since March 2020. In particular, all playing surfaces – from synthetic pitches, natural grass pitches, running tracks and indoor surfaces to MUGAs and sports courts – need regular checks and care.
The main objective of any maintenance work during the lockdown period should have been on identifying and fixing any minor problems that could, if left unattended, develop into major ones.
For example, specific issues on outdoor pitches include weed, moss or algae growth within and around the playing surface, which can result in damage to the surface. Similarly, having bird droppings on a porous asphalt surface might seem innocuous, but can soon cause permanent damage to the surface.
Many sports facilities engage specialist maintenance companies to carry out regular visits as part of an annual programme of work. If one or more visits have been missed during lockdown, then it may well be the case that a contractor’s first return visit will need to be extended in order to bring the facility back into optimum condition.
If you think your facility would benefit from essential maintenance prior to reopening – or that your facility has missed regular maintenance visits – get in touch with a specialist, SAPCA-approved contractor to map out a maintenance plan tailored to your requirements.
As well as undertaking the necessary maintenance procedures, there are some additional measures that facility owners and operators can take, in preparation for reopening.
Initial things to consider
- Check your local restrictions and relevant government guidance, as advice can change depending on whether you are based in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
- Consider whether the facility can be fully or partially opened – and how this might be phased, as adult indoor sports will be allowed at a later date compared with outdoor sport.
- Consider the impact that reopening will have on the management of the facility. Volunteer-run clubs, for example, are likely to have different issues to professionally-managed facilities.
- Inform your insurance company of your plans to reopen in order to make sure you have necessary cover.
- Undertake detailed planning with the management or committee prior to opening.
- Consider all relevant guidance and advice, provided by national governing bodies (NGBs), for the reopening and use of facilities for their specific sports.
Health & Safety
- Review all risk assessments. Ensure that safety specific procedures align with the government’s latest COVID-19 advice.
- Carry out checks for legionella in all water systems.
- Make employees (experienced and new) aware of all changes to operational matters, particularly around COVID-19 safety, well before reopening.
- Check first aid boxes, defibrillators and all other medical emergency equipment.
- Check fire extinguishers, fire exit doors and alarms.
- Check all electrics, lighting, security etc. and rectify any issues prior to reopening.
- Follow manufacturers’ guidance on restarting equipment machinery – including boilers, heating systems etc.
- Conduct a comprehensive cleaning programme across the facility, especially in club houses, pavilions and other communal areas.
- Empty all litter bins on site.
- Check the operational status of floodlighting and irrigation systems.
Prior to opening
- Undertake a thorough walkaround and inspection of the entire facility/site, in order to identify any issues or defects.
- Assess whether there is a need for additional cleaning within the sports and ancillary facilities.
- Develop a detailed plan to manage the facility. Ensure all government COVID-19 guidance – such as social distancing, the use of face masks and disinfection areas – are followed.
- Put up appropriate signage around COVID-19 guidance for staff.
Sports surfaces and equipment
- Check all playing surfaces are clean and free from debris and rubbish.
- If the condition of the playing surface requires a professional clean, contact a specialist SAPCA-approved contractor prior to reopening. As lots of facilities will look to reopen at the same time, demand for these services will be high – so plan this well in advance!
- Set up all facility equipment and check that it is in a good state of repair and fit for purpose (e.g. goals, posts, nets, hammer/discus throws cages, pole vault/high jump landing beds). If you are unsure of the condition of any equipment, contact a SAPCA-approved member to carry out a pre-opening equipment inspection.
Communication with facility users
- Review all government and sports-specific guidance from NGBs to provide appropriate pre-arrival advice to all users, so that all parties are clear on rules of facility use.
- To ensure COVID-19 compliance by users, install on-site signage relating to the latest government guidance on social distancing/one-way routes/handwashing/face masks etc.
- Set up a system to collect user information, relating to test and trace.
Need more help?
If you require further advice – or want to clarify any aspects of the reopening guidance – Contact SAPCA. The association can also help you find a SAPCA-approved member to assist with any facility-related needs around maintenance and cleaning as well as replacing (or fixing) equipment and/or playing surfaces.
This guidance note may be downloaded in PDF format here.
NOTE: This guidance is given to assist in getting facilities ready to be reopened. It is intended as a broad, general checklist, rather than an exhaustive operational guide. Not all points are relevant to all facilities and some venues might require specific actions prior to reopening, which aren’t mentioned in the guidance. The guide also doesn’t include operational guidance for players and coaches specific to a sport – nor guidance on the management of facilities once they have reopened.