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Return to Sport Guidance Note November 2021

On October 19th Government announced Ireland’s plan for the next phase of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A full Return to Sport Guidance Note can be found here: It is envisioned that these measures will remain in place until approximately February 2022. Sporting Organisations should continue to implement strong protocols with regard to training, competition and other sporting activities. These will include:

  • The collection of contact tracing data.
  • The use of COVID 19 Officers.
  • Recommending symptomatic individuals do not participate in or attend sporting activities.
  • The ongoing promotion of good respiratory & hand hygiene.
  • The wearing of face coverings in relevant settings.
  • Ensuring that indoor spaces are well ventilated.
  • Consideration of indoor space densities and duration of indoor activities.

Monitoring, oversight and compliance activities should continue to be reinforced by Sporting Organisations. Up to date and active Communication on existing measures will also assist with the ongoing promotion of public health measures at a local level.

In addition to the protective measures outlined above the Return to Sport Expert Group strongly recommends that all eligible individuals consider vaccination as a matter of priority. This will maximise availability of indoor sporting opportunities and the number of participants.

Summary of the Measures applicable from October 22nd Outdoor Sport – General

  • Outdoor group activities should continue to implement the relevant protective measures as outlined above.
  • Proof of vaccination or recovery will no longer apply for spectators attending outdoor events.
  • Fixed capacity limits will no longer apply for spectators or participants at outdoor events.

Indoor Sport – General

  • The use of the EU Digital COVID Certificate (vaccine or recovery certificate) will be required for accessing indoor sporting activities and events.
  • Where individuals have mixed immunity status, pods of up to 6 participants will be permitted (excluding adult coaches/instructors).
  • Multiple pods will be permissible subject to protective measures.
  • The overall number of pods will have regard to the size of venue and there should be substantial social distance between individual pods.
  • For Vaccinated individuals no fixed capacity limits apply to these activities.
  • Vaccinated spectators attending indoor sporting events should be fully seated.

Indoor Youth Sport – Games and Competitions (Updated 4 November, 2021)
Underage Participants – Children under 18 Years Old

  • The current “pod of six” system can be adjusted to allow for indoor games and competition activities according to the ordinary rules and limits of the sport concerned.
  • The ‘pod of six’ system should be retained for all other settings such as training activities.
  • The continuation of the pod system for more frequent activity will assist in minimising the overall risk and facilitate contact tracing.

Mitigation Measures for Inclusion in Indoor Youth Sport Protocols

  • Staggered start and finish times combined with appropriate entry, exit and traffic management protocols to minimise the unnecessary interaction of participants at any one time.
  • The pre-booking of activity including the health screening of participants along with coaches & support personnel.
  • Symptomatic individuals not to participate in or attend sporting activities.
  • Consideration of indoor space densities when determining overall numbers.
  • Reduction in the overall duration of activities.
  • Ensuring that indoor spaces are well ventilated.
  • Participants to arrive prepared to play; limited use of changing room or showers.
  • The ongoing promotion of good respiratory & hand hygiene.
  • The wearing of face coverings by coaches and support personnel.
  • Additional signage, hand sanitization stations and deep cleaning implemented.
  • The use of physical distancing during warm-ups, rest times and off the field of play.
  • No handshakes, high fives, fist pumps, chest bumps, huddles, group celebrations, etc.
  • The use of dedicated COVID 19 Officers to ensure implementation and compliance of measures.

Transport To and From Activities & Events

Sporting Organisations organising transport to/from events should implement protective measures such as mask wearing etc. as appropriate. Private transport (carpooling) carrying those not yet vaccinated or of mixed immunity should be aware of the higher risk. The use of appropriate face coverings is recommended. If carpooling consider use of a pod system in which the same participants pool together for all activities.

Showers / Changing Rooms / Sports Clubhouse Gyms

Where all individuals are vaccinated the full use of showers and changing rooms is permitted. Where individuals have mixed immunity status the use of these facilities should be pod based. The type of protective measures implemented will be determined by the type of facility users (i.e. vaccinated / mixed immunity). Sample protective measures may include:

  • Limit overall duration of individuals in a changing room for example implement a 15 minute window / 5 minute shower rule etc.
  • Implement adequate social distancing measures in changing areas for example the use of every second changing space/lockers/shower head etc.
  • Recommend the wearing of masks in shared areas (showers an exception).
  • Provide clear signage highlighting any relevant space capacities and time durations.
  • Close off any unnecessary spaces or those not in use/not permitted.
  • Monitor toilets with agreed capacity numbers and limit to participants/patrons only.
  • Implement flow management systems where necessary.
  • To improve ventilation consider an open window / open door policy (subject to privacy).
  • Provide sanitisation stations as appropriate on entrances and in shared areas.
  • Continue to promote hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette through signage, posters etc.
  • Ensure deep cleaning of shared areas on a regular basis.

In relation to Gyms and Training Facilities within sports clubs, these may operate in line with the broader permissions for indoor facilities. i.e. the use of pods of 6 for mixed immunity participants or no fixed limit for participants with proof of immunity. Appropriate protective measures and COVID protocols should be in place.

Indoor Meetings & Educational / Coaching Courses

Sports may wish to continue to conduct Meetings & Educational / Coaching Courses remotely or outdoors. Coaching or Educational programmes that contain a practical element should be delivered in line with other sporting measures permitted i.e. the use of pods of 6 for mixed immunity participants. Appropriate protective measures and COVID protocols should be in place. Ongoing consideration to Room densities, meeting durations and ventilation should continue throughout the Winter months.

Health Questionnaires

In line with a move towards personal judgement and responsibility and where appropriate sports may wish to begin to unwind the ongoing use of health questionnaires for training and events from October 22nd. The promotion of the Governments COVID TRACKER APP and the ongoing recommendation that symptomatic individuals do not attend sporting activities or events until 48hrs symptom free should continue.

Substantial Distance amongst Pods

Indoor activities made up of Mixed Immunity Participants should continue in pods of up to 6. Multiple pods will be permissible and should take into account the overall size of the venue. Substantial social distancing between individual pods should be implemented. The levels of ‘substantial distance’ will differ depending on the nature and intensity of the activity. To any independent onlooker it should be clear that the pods are completely separate groups operating independent of one another with no interaction or sharing of equipment and there is no opportunity for them to mix or stray into one another’s group or playing space. In addition it is not recommended that Coaches/instructors participate in multiple pods. A single Coach/Instructor may however coach/instruct/oversee/ supervise more than one pod. This Coach/Instructor should ensure that they are not directly engaging with or in close proximity to any individual members of the pod. To any independent onlooker it should be clear that the Coach/Instructor is completely separate to the groups he/she is overseeing.

Sharing of Equipment

Sport particularly competitive team sport will require a certain degree of equipment sharing. Where this can be reduced or limited for example in individual sport or in training activities, it may help decrease overall risk. Where there is any sharing of equipment, appropriate sanitisation practices should remain in place.

Use of Masks

The use of masks in indoor settings particularly for those not participating in activity continues to be recommended. The use of masks on public transport remains a requirement, while the use of masks in shared private transport continues to be strongly recommended. Medical staff should continue to use masks and appropriate PPE when treating participants.

Ventilation

Ventilation will remain a core component of the COVID-19 response. The HSA has published a new COVID-19 Work Safely Protocol employer checklist on ventilation. Further expanded details on ventilation can be found in the Appendixes.2

Underage Spectators at Indoor Sporting Events

Accompanied minors (i.e. children under 18 years old accompanied with a fully vaccinated/proof of immunity adult) attending indoor sporting events in a spectating capacity are not required to be fully vaccinated or recovered to attend events and do not need to show a COVID-19 pass. Unaccompanied minors (children under 18 years old) attending indoor sporting events in a spectating capacity are required to be fully vaccinated or recovered to attend events and must show a COVID-19 pass. They must also have photo ID to prove that the COVID-19 Pass relates to them.

Source: Federation of Irish Sport

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