Professional sport has nudged a further step closer to a resumption after the government published ‘stage two’ of its guidance which enables competitive and close-contact training.
The guidance, published in conjunction with public health officials and sports medical officers, allows for organised, close-contact training, under carefully controlled medical conditions.
The advice is geared towards establishing the conditions for stage three of the process, which is expected to be achieved next month with a resumption of sports, including Premier League matches, behind closed doors.
The guidance makes it clear that the close contact training for elite athletes can include close quarters coaching and tackling in team sports so that players can get match fit.
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.”
Premier League football clubs resumed non-contact training last week while other sports, including sailing and taekwondo, have started the process of returning to action in socially-distanced environments.
However, there remains some reluctance, with a number of football players, including Watford captain Troy Deeney and Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, citing health concerns in their respective decisions not to return.
Some Olympic and Paralympic sports, notably those housed at multi-sports centres such as the English Institute of Sheffield, are yet to determine when they will be able to return to action.
The government published phase one of its guidance on May 13, outlining the conditions for an initial return to training subject to a series of strict social-distancing regulations.
It 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.
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.