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Revealed: No whistles, no high fives and no changing rooms - the plan for under 18s sport to leave lockdown

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Children playing sport

Children playing sport

Children playing sport

Closed changing rooms, no whistles and no high fives are just some of the measures that will be put in place to reduce virus risk once under 18s sports resumes post-lockdown.

According to new guidance published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the HSE, cloth face coverings must also be worn by coaches, officials, parents, volunteers and spectators.

Water bottles will also have to be labelled with each child’s name, with no sharing allowed and spitting strictly forbidden.

These measures will have to be implemented in summer camps and organised sports for children and teenagers under 18.

A grading system which classifies the level of risk an activity carries will have to be followed in accordance with the roadmap and according to the document, “is for each sports organisation to determine how best this is to be operationalised”.

A Grade 1 activity will involve practising sports drills, with only family present.

Grade 2 will see a team or group based practice within the community practising skills without physical contact between participants.

Grade 3 activities will involve competition within a team or activity group which involves physical contact, like a practise match involving only members from the same team.

Grade 4 activities will see competitions involving physical contact between different teams from the same geographical area, for example from the same county.

Grade 5 will involve competition involving physical contact between different teams from different geographical areas, for example different counties or provinces.

Initial returns to sports should move from Grade 1 activities to Grade 2 or 3. The level of contact involved and social distancing should be taken into consideration and children with disabilities should also be able to return to sport once they are able to adhere to the risk minimisation measures.

A number of measures to reduce infection risk will be put in, including children waiting in the car just before training begins to discourage congregating with others.

Drop off and collection times should be staggered, changing rooms should be closed if possible, with kids coming and leaving dressed in their gear.

All participants should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds upon arrival, with hand sanitiser readily available, spitting should be “strictly forbidden” and whistles are not allowed “as alternative alert mechanisms can be used”.

Coaches, officials, parents, volunteers and any other spectators should wear face coverings where they cannot physically distance.

While it is acknowledged in the document that “face coverings may also be challenging to wear while playing sport” it adds that “unless there is a safety concern however, children older than 13 years should be allowed to wear a face covering if they wish to.”

Social distancing of 2m must be maintained where possible.

Any “unnecessary” physical contact, such as high fives, handshakes, fist bumps, or hugs should be “discouraged”.

Players should be organised into into small groups or pods with designated coaches - for example, two coaches for every 10 participants, that remain together and work through stations, rather than switching groups or mixing groups to minimise contact.

One staff member must be designated to clean and disinfect all shared equipment, while sharing equipment should be minimised.

Jerseys or bibs should not be swapped during a training session or game and should be washed at the highest temperature after every use.

For sports involving large teams, the document states to “consider decreasing the sizes of teams for matches”.

For contact tracing, a log of all children and spectators attending every session must be kept, which should be electronic and should be completed in advance where possible.

A Covid-19 Compliance Officer should be appointed, who should take charge of the management of any persons with virus symptoms.

Reacting to the document, Sports Minister Shane Ross said: “The experience of the last few weeks has been difficult but I hope that the progress we are making gives young people, and their parents, a real sense that we are coming out of the Covid-19 crisis and that better days are certainly ahead.

“However, we all need to abide by health and safety precautions and this is emphasised in the guidance.”

Online Editors