Sports stars based in the United Kingdom have received the go-ahead for a phased return to organised training, but new government guidance also provides athletes with an opt-out choice.
As sport looks for a pathway back to competition amid the COVID-19 crisis, the new instruction gives elite competitors permission to resume training immediately.
However, the guidance published on Wednesday is defined as a step one, allowing for training to take place but with social distancing continuing to apply.
Crucial to the planning is the instruction that any sportsperson or member of support staff must be assessed in a one-to-one session before returning to training, in which their physical and mental health will be examined and risks and protocols discussed.
Anyone returning to a training environment must have ‘actively’ agreed to opt in, and the guidance makes it clear they are entitled to refuse.
It states: “All athletes and staff should also be clear on their route to ‘opt out’ of the organised training environment under step one conditions at any time without unreasonable steps being taken against them consequently.”
That was welcomed by Sally Munday, chief executive of government agency UK Sport, who said: “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.”
UK Sport CEO Sally Munday outlines implications for Olympic and Paralympic sport following government return to training guidance.
“Each sport will need to make a risk assessment against the guidance and determine what is best for both their athletes and staff.”
— UK Sport (@uk_sport) May 13, 2020
A number of Premier League footballers, including Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, have previously expressed reservations about returning to action while the UK continues to be hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The guidance, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is clarified as not being legal advice, with clubs and organisations urged to seek independent medical instruction before resuming any form of training.
Clubs and training centres will have to abide by stringent rules, including the regular screening of athletes and the cleaning of equipment and areas between sessions.
Step two of the return to training will allow for social clustering, meaning the likes of footballers may be able to train more normally on a pitch. However, no timescale has been disclosed for when that may occur.
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