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Coronavirus restrictions eased and Return to Play guidance updated

Coronavirus restrictions eased and Return to Play guidance updated

Categories: Sport Industry News

Monday 17 May 2021

From today, all indoor sport can restart (though there are still some restrictions on physical contact), group exercise classes can take place and there's also an easing of rules around spectating.

It's a particularly important milestone for sports like netball, basketball, table tennis and badminton.

These sports have been badly hit by indoor restrictions, while the return of exercise classes within gym settings will be welcome news for women in particular – who make up 80% of the participants of such activities. 

Over the past few months, Sport England been working with Active Partnerships and other partners to promote the return of activity via a series of campaigns and communication tools, and have today released a new video that welcomes the return of some of the indoor sports.

However, while many sports will celebrate their return, there remain major challenges to overcome to help restore activity levels to pre-pandemic levels.

Sport England CEO, Tim Hollingsworth said:

“Some audiences are certainly finding it harder than others to be active and our insight bears this out. Many will require significantly more support than ever before and we are taking decisions now to ensure these numbers don’t slide further – for example adding £20 million of extra investment into our Tackling Inequalities Fund, which focuses on specific target groups to encourage and enable them to return to activity.   

“We know too that facilities are under strain, with publicly-owned leisure operators under huge financial pressures in particular and we’re continuing to work with the government to offer support as they are absolutely vital to local communities. 

"We also continue to work with the sports who require high levels of physical contact and with the government so that they can return fully as soon as possible."

And Tim believes that, despite all the challenges of the past year, the reopening of sport has shown there to be major opportunities to build back positively too.  

“The last year has helped to cement the importance of sport and activity as being essential for our health and for bringing communities together,” he explained. “The public messaging about the importance of staying active and protecting the ability to exercise outdoors for an hour a day in the the first lockdown, was hugely important and welcome.

“There’s also been a surge in activities like cycling, running, walking and fitness-at-home, and that has made the importance of the local environment even more obvious - the better local facilities near where you live, the more likely people are to be active. 

"This means the streets, the green spaces, the walking routes and cycle paths – as well as more obvious settings like leisure centres, gyms and sports pitches and courts.  Improving and investing in these areas is something we are very ambitious to do as part of the delivery of our recently published long-term strategy.”

Sport England have updated their Return to Play guidance, which you can see here.

You can also read the updated Frequently Asked Questions here.