UK government issues guidance on safe sports training

London (AFP) –


The British government issued guidance on Wednesday on how elite sportsmen and women can safely return to training, paving the way for the potential relaunch of top-level action.

Professional sport, currently on hold due to the coronavirus, can return behind closed doors in England from June 1.

Under step one of the guidance, athletes, players and coaches can return to training premises for "organised individual programme training".

That can include individual training or groups of individual athletes training in the same facility but adhering to social-distancing rules.

Step two would allow "social clustering", with athletes and staff able to come into closer contact, for example tackling, sparring and sharing equipment.

A move to the second stage would only take place once the government had given the go-ahead.

The guidance also states that each sport should have a COVID-19 medical officer.

"Enabling athletes to get match-fit is an important milestone towards restarting competitive sport behind closed doors -- but we have not given a green light yet," said Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

"We are clear that this can only happen on the advice of medical experts and when it is safe to do so."

Many football clubs are already carrying out individual sessions for players and are hoping for a return to group training as early as next week, with the Premier League aiming to resume its season by playing games by mid-June.

Restrictions on golf and tennis were eased in England on Wednesday, with the public allowed to play with one member of another household.

However, the clamour of sports authorities to return to action has been met with some resistance from professional athletes, worried that their health is being put at risk.

England international footballers Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose raised their concerns earlier this week.

The Premier League held talks on Wednesday with unions representing players and managers.

"The choice to return to training is also a personal one," said chief executive of UK Sport Sally Munday.

"Every sport is different and everyone's personal circumstances are different and whilst clearly there are many who are keen to return to training as soon as possible, there are those who will have genuine concerns or personal circumstances that make this challenging."

England's Rugby Football Union said it would have further talks with players and staff before resuming training.

"There is still significant work to do and discussions to be had with players and staff before any form of training can resume," the RFU said in a statement.

"Their welfare will be at the heart of our decisions."