In the week since the Government released the Covid-19 Recovery Strategy, the RFL have held webinars with community clubs, foundations, match officials, and this weekend the Youth and Junior Leagues.
We thank all for attending – and for their continued commitment to the game. The over-riding theme has been a desire to see Rugby League return as soon as possible – but a recognition that this may not be possible at community level for some time, and that we must be responsible in the interim, while doing all we can to maintain engagement with clubs and the game.
Step 1 of the Recovery Strategy, introduced on Wednesday and therefore applying now, states the following:
- “People may exercise outside as many times each day as they wish.”
- People are permitted to exercise with one person from outside their own household, and “this means you should not play team sports, except with members of your own household”.
- Training sessions at community and junior clubs are not permitted.
- Activity that involves opening clubhouses, changing rooms etc is not permitted.
- The emphasis is on exercising outdoors.
Step 2, to begin no earlier than June 1, involves “Permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”.
However the strict conditions for such events to take place, involving regular testing of all participants and other detailed guidelines, are well beyond the community game.
Similarly, the conditions introduced for the return to training for players that must precede the return of competitive sport are specific to professionals, given the level of testing and medical provision required.
The RFL’s approach will therefore be to keep the situation under regular review – it is fluid, depending on the public health situation, with the possibility of regional variations, as well as different approaches for different sports.
We expect the next relevant changes to relate to the possibility of exercising in small groups – again, a long way short of being able to consider a return to contact Rugby League - but perhaps a return to some Rugby League activity.
We’re deliberately avoiding laying out a timetable of dates at this stage – it would only be guesswork, and might undermine the flexibility we will need over the coming months.
As a general guide, clubs are advised that circumstances would need to change considerably for a full return until well into the summer, and possibly the autumn.
We will issue a further update next month.
Finally, a reminder that the Sport England Community Emergency Fund has been temporarily paused for new applicants, to allow Sport England to work though the backlog of those who have already applied – and that the Fund, initially £20m, has been topped up with an additional £15m.
You may also have seen some activity on social media over the weekend regarding a new initiative for clubs – a plan to arrange a schedule of Virtual Game Days, to help maintain team and club spirit at all levels.
The initial response to some trials has been positive, and we will be providing further details in the near future.