playing grassroots football

Coronavirus Update: Is my child safe to play sport again?

, 11 min reading time

Sports Sanitiser

With the gradual lifting of restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, some sort of normality is starting to return to our lives. However, people are understandably nervous about rushing back to the way things were before. We feel that with proper measures in place grassroots sports should be returning soon and we want this to take a front seat in parliament. You can find out more about this and take action here.

Sport gives kids a boost

Seeing certain elements of sport back is providing a much-needed lift both physically and mentally, so we think it is important to find a safe way for kids and sport at grassroots level to return as soon as possible.

The Premier League is back - financial reasons playing an important part in many of these decisions - and grassroots sport won't bring an injection to the UK economy so perhaps that is why they have been left to limited socially distanced training only?

Not just team sports

After the announcement that gyms cannot open yet - this issue has also severely affected training gyms too. Gymnasiums where children train to do gymnastics or cheerleading for example. Many of these gyms have huge floor areas and so can open and train more safely than those going to get their haircut or visiting the pub. To ignore that these are an important part of a child's health and wellbeing is ludicrous.

We take a look firstly at what procedures the Premier league has put in place to come back and why we think these could be replicated throughout all levels of sport. These measures are feasible for all and we know achievable if government would consider all the factors involved.

Premier League Safety Measures

Pre-Match and Training

Premier League Measure Can it be replicated?
Players and staff to undergo daily screening Screening pre-match for players would only be necessary at this level
Before going to a match they must complete relevant checks for Covid-19 and report any symptoms Yes - A simple online form or check-list for parents or players would be simple to implement
Travel to matches must be in a sterile environment and with social-distancing Yes - Solo travelling should be possible in most instances
Dressing rooms must have enough space for social distancing and staggered use will be encouraged Yes - in most cases the use of changing rooms could be limited or will not be required
Clubs must apply strict cleaning routines at stadiums and hand sanitisers freely available Yes - this may require extra volunteers to carry out sterilising duties but shouldn't be too hard if it means the games can be played

During the Match

Premier League Measure Can it be replicated?
Stadium access limited to 300 Yes - for many grassroots matches you would never get this many people at a game at once anyway
Red Zone - only 110 people maximum allowed on the pitch and immediate area around the pitch Yes - for many grassroots matches you would never get this many people at a game at once anyway
People in the red zone must have a clinical passport showing they have recently tested negative Aside from the players - everyone else watching the game can easily spread out and enter/exit at different points for safety. Testing can give a complacency or false security (we talk more about this further on)
Replacement balls will be placed around the pitch if a ball cannot quickly be retrieved Yes - raising funds for extra equipment may be needed but we are sure that most involved will be happy to help out
Drinks breaks will be taken midway through each half and the ref will signal these - with players having their own bottle Yes - this can easily be done with players placing their bottle on the sidelines
Substitutions can be made - five during a match (instead of three) but on only three occasions Yes

After the Match

Premier League Measure Can it be replicated?
Warm-downs - no more than 25 minutes and staggered for each team. Yes
Travelling from the stadium must be done in own cars or vehicles where 2m is kept between players Yes - most grassroots players can get to matches under their own steam and where more transport is needed appeal for volunteers can be made
Media interviews must take place pitch side at 2m distance. Boom microphones must be used and must be cleaned between interviews. Post-match press conferences will be virtual. Not Applicable - in most cases interviews are few and far between. where local press are involved social distancing can be maintained quite easily
Premier League Official Matchday Routine

What else should we consider?

It is important to remember that children get infected with coronavirus at much lower rates than adults and if they do contract the disease, have much milder symptoms – rarely requiring hospitalisation.

Children do not spread coronavirus in the same way as adults. Covid-19 goes from adult to adult much more effectively than it does child to child.

Social distancing must still be observed, but small training sessions are now allowed with a maximum of six people. This means there is scope for a variety of drills and practice to take place. In football it has been specified you can have multiple groups training, as long as each different group is appropriately separated.

As well as the obvious physical benefit, playing sport is proven to help people’s mental state and offers a great opportunity to reunite with friends and provide a focus for your attention. With no restrictions on the time allowed to be spent outside, there are plenty of real positives in getting back to action.

Each person should bring their own water bottle and ensure only they use it. It goes without saying that no unnecessary contact should take place, such as hand shaking, hugging or even high fives.

It is important everyone understands and respects the strict hygiene measures that have been put in place, with hand-washing taking place both before and after, while using and touching a minimum amount of equipment. All equipment can easily be sanitised before and after too.

Ideally people taking part in the training sessions should get there by walking or cycling. If they are needed to be driven, this must be done by people in the same household. No shared car journeys are allowed with anyone from a different household.

When a session is finished – after washing hands at the first available opportunity – shower or bath as soon as possible and change into fresh clothes.

Testing in sports

One of the measures that the Premier League has brought in is frequent testing for players and those who will be inside the 'red zone' during matches. But is this essential and will it be necessary for sports at all levels to follow suit?

Testing when you have no symptoms does not provide anyone with a definitive answer as to whether you have the disease or not. While anyone can log into the .gov website and book in a test, if you are not currently displaying symptoms you could potentially have it and test negative.

Dr. Emily Landon, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, warns that a negative test shouldn't be seen as your ticket to stop being cautious.

We don't know how good these tests are in individuals who don't have symptoms

Dr. Emily Landon, a hospital epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine

Dr. Emily Landon states that , "A positive test can make us relatively certain that you are shedding COVID. But a negative test does not mean the opposite." It could be that you were tested too early in the disease process or that the swab didn't pick up your infection. It can take three to five days after exposure to test positive.

As the negative test doesn't give you absolute certainty that you don't have the virus, it's not a 100% guarantee that it's safe to be in close proximity to others for lengths of time and therefore all the other precautions will have to be met anyway.

Given that grassroots sports teams meet and play less regularly we think tests could play a part in the measures taken by teams to keep playing safely. However, we do feel that the frequency of the Premier league is less necessary in these settings and all other precautions are much more important.

Bring back grassroots sports

We think that the delay in decision making to make grassroots matches possible is affecting clubs and players both physically, mentally and financially. So we have started a petition to get this at the top of the agenda in government as soon as possible.

Want to bring back sports for the well-being of your children and amateur players alike?

Sign our petition now to get this to the top of the agenda in Parliament.


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