The UK government has released its ‘phase two’ guidance for athletes and elite sportsmen and women to make a phased return to close-contact and competitive training, provided individual sports “have the appropriate carefully controlled medical conditions in place”.
Public health officials and sports medical officers have contributed to the guidelines which permit organised and close-contact training to take place under carefully controlled medical conditions.
Premier League footballers have already returned in socially distanced small groups but clubs now face a key vote on Wednesday over contact training.
The official advice, aimed at helping competitors reach fitness levels required for matches, says close-contact training for elite athletes can include coaching and tackling in team sports within a two-metre distance.
The guidelines clarify: “Stage Two training can be described as the resumption of close contact (interaction within the two-metre social distancing boundary) training where pairs, small groups and/or teams will be able to interact in much closer contact (e.g. close quarters coaching, combat sports sparring, teams sports tackling, technical equipment sharing, etc).
“On May 13, the government published its ‘phase one’ guidance, which advised adherence to strict social distancing.’Stage three’ of the government’s protocols are expected to centre around a return to professional sports in June.
The government stressed that the decision to implement the latest guidelines will be the responsibility of the respective sports bodies and clubs, in consultation with athletes, coaches and support staff.
In socially distanced environments, sailing and taekwando have also made steps towards resuming competitive action, while other Olympic and Paralympic disciplines are yet to make decisions over a return.
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “This new guidance marks the latest phase of a carefully phased return to training process for elite athletes, designed to limit the risk of injury and protect the health and safety of all involved.
“We are absolutely clear that individual sports must review whether they have the appropriate carefully controlled medical conditions in place before they can proceed, and secure the confidence of athletes, coaches and support staff.
“Given the wide-ranging input we have received from medical experts, we believe these pragmatic measures should provide further reassurance that a safe, competitive training environment can be delivered, as we work towards a restart of professional sport behind closed doors when it is safe to do so.
“The current social-distancing rules will continue to apply during travel to training, equipment-sharing will be avoided where possible, and communal areas will mostly be expected to remain closed.
Top-level sport in England could restart behind-closed-doors from June 1 but spectators may not be able to attend venues until a coronavirus vaccine is found.