Getting Back to Sport - What are the Plans?

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As lockdown measures are gradually lifted, the return of sport – at all levels – is getting closer. Professional football has already made its return in England, while cricket Test matches between England and West Indies are set to begin on 8 July. Meanwhile, rugby is hoping to restart its season in August.

Grassroots activities have returned in some form too, with some sports – such as golf and tennis – being able to kickstart certain club activities, although with restrictions. Basketball (and netball) courts, cricket nets and bowling greens have also been given the greenlight to reopen, as long as social distancing and a limit of six people is adhered to.

As of 3 July the official government advice is that:

“Outdoor sports courts are allowed to be open if those responsible for them can open them safely. This includes basketball and tennis courts, playing spaces like golf courses (public and private) and playing fields and water sports. Each venue, including council-owned sports facilities, should make their own decisions about when their facilities are ready.”

You can view the full government guidance on sport, published by the DCMS and updated on 30 June, here.

From 4 July, outdoor gyms and playgrounds can also open – although outdoor swimming pools will remain closed.

As the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken their own path, the picture in those nations is slightly different.

In Scotland, grassroots clubs have been told they will be able to “explore a return to training” in phase three of the Scottish Government’s easing of the coronavirus lockdown (Scotland is currently in phase two of the government’s easing of the lockdown). Read more here.

In Wales, outdoor sports courts – apart from five-a-side football pitches, outdoor gyms and playgrounds – were allowed to open from 22 June. Rules about staying local, however, are still in place, which means that no one will be able to travel more than five miles for any sporting activity.

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, opened its outdoor sports facilities on 8 June. Outdoor activities in general are now permitted, subject to social distancing being maintained.

In its guidance, the Northern Irish government said: “There is no list of permitted activities but certain activities clearly present lower risks than others, for example, walking, cycling, golf, lawn bowls and angling.”

The government’s reopening strategy regarding sport has left many clubs and facility owners in a quandary. While courts are allowed to open, social distancing measures and limits placed on the number of people allowed to gather mean that – in practice – very few sports clubs have restarted activities.

The noises coming out of government are, however, encouraging. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden dropped a big hint that further announcements would be made regarding sport and physical activity, stating that he understood the public are “itching” to resume their sport and fitness routines.

“Sports recovery is never just about elite sports, so we’re working closely to get grassroots and community sport back and up running as soon as it’s safe to so,” Dowden said.

While the official go-ahead for activities needs to come from the government, sports organisations have been busy in drawing up guidance and advice in preparation for the big day. We have collected the latest advice and guidance documents here to help SAPCA members, partners and other stakeholders plan for the return of sport.


Sport England

Sport England has published a number of support documents aimed to help grassroot sport return when restrictions are lifted. Among the advice is an entire section on maintaining facilities – which references SAPCA’s specific technical guidance. Learn more here.


Physical activity industry body ukactive has provided a framework for the re-opening of gym, leisure centre and wider fitness industry. These range from detailed advice on swimming pool openings to laying out fitness suites to ensure social distancing. Download here.

Activity Alliance

The disability sports charity has published its own advice, called Reopening Activity: An inclusive response. With the guidance, the charity wants providers to consider the guidance as part of their ongoing commitment to disabled people’s inclusion. The resource covers areas such as session planning, engagement, and workforce. Download here.


A number of national governing bodies of sport (NGBs) have also published their guidance for getting their individual sports restarted post-lockdown.

The plans include advice on particular sports and have been produced to meet the government’s official (and latest) guidelines, offering a great resource for clubs, facility operators and anyone associated with organised sport in England.


As well as an overall “football restart” document, the Football Association has published four additional guidance documents, one each for providers of football activities, adult players, coaches and parents and carers. Learn more here.

Rugby Union

The RFU has developed a range of resources and information to help support clubs affected by the Coronavirus. Among these is a national roadmap to support a return to community rugby activity. The roadmap consists of six stages (A to F). Download here.

Rugby League

The Rugby Football League’s (RFL) guidance is based on four stages, aligned to the government’s progress against the five-stage Covid Alert Levels. Download here.


The ECB’s guidance is based on five stages and takes into consideration cricket’s status as a “non-contact sport” – which means that individual disciplines within a team environment can be played while respecting social distancing. Download here.


The LTA has published a number of guidance documents – including separate ones for England, Wales and Scotland, due to the alternate approaches to restrictions adopted by the devolved governments. There are also separate resources for facilities, clubs, coaches and a number of other stakeholders. All of the documents are available at a designated Resource Library on the LTA website here.


England Athletics has published six guidance documents, five of which offer specific advice to different audiences – venues, clubs, road running coaches, track coaches and athletes. There is also a general health and safety guidance document to help the return of activities. View them here.


England Hockey has based its guidance on a five-step, phased return to action. It takes into consideration that facility providers are taking different approaches to the current restrictions and not all clubs are able to access pitches. Learn more here.


England Netball has published its own roadmap for the return of community netball. Due to the rapidly changing situation, it represents England Netball’s ‘best guess’ of potential measures and will remain under constant review. Learn more here.

We are continuing to work with sports councils, NGBs and others behind the scenes to provide the support they need in relations to facilities and to help to share best practice guidance across the marketplace. We are also using our various communications channels (including social media) to promote these messages – if you haven’t yet see it, then do take a look at (and follow!) SAPCA’s new presence on LinkedIn.