When can I play rugby, football and cricket? New Covid rules for outdoor sport after lockdown

3 min read

Boris Johnson’s plan for lifting lockdown restrictions was announced in February. The wider reopening of schools began on March 8, with other sections of society divided into a series of four ‘steps’, between March and July, when every adult should have been offered at least one vaccination.

Elite sport was granted dispensation to continue during this current lockdown, but there has been a clamour for recreational sport to be prioritised so that people can again derive the vast physical and mental health benefits.

Many sports and clubs are facing huge financial uncertainty and are desperate to get back up and running. There was a relatively wide resumption of sport between July and December last year and, with Spring approaching and the vaccination programme being rolled out, the grass-roots sports sector is finally opening up again…

Which sport can I play from March 29?

All outdoor organised sport and physical activity for adults and children returned from Monday, March 29. This meant the reopening of numerous pitches, courts and tracks as well as outdoor facilities like swimming pools, golf courses, tennis courts, archery and riding centres and outdoor gyms.

Organised group activities, such as outdoor exercise classes, walking groups and competitive cycling and running are also able to take place again.

Activities must be organised according to Covid-secure protocols which are drawn up by individual governing bodies and organisers.

Physical education in schools and extracurricular school sports were already permitted from March 8 and there has been an exemption for disabled sport throughout lockdown. 

What special rules are there for team sports like football, cricket and rugby?

Football can be played according to its normal rules but the FA has stressed that there should be no handshakes, team huddles, goal celebrations and shared water bottles. Players are also urged not to spit and shout when facing another person. Only participants should retrieve a ball with their hands. 

The community rugby season had been cancelled but youth teams can hold friendly matches and rugby clubs may now hold contact training sessions, excluding scrums and mauls. Training sessions should not exceed 20 minutes of contact.

Cricket training and friendlies can take place, with most league programmes expected to start on time in the middle of April. Participants are urged to avoid putting sweat or saliva on the ball, to clean their hands and the ball every six overs and encouraged only to use their own equipment.

Participants should arrive ready to play where possible for all sports and, although toilets can be accessed, all indoor changing rooms must remain closed. Participants must adhere to social distancing during breaks in play.

What about socially distanced sports like tennis, golf and fishing?

Fishing has continued throughout lockdown according to strict protocols. Recreational tennis will be subject to the rule of six ,which returns on March 29, or two households – but both singles and doubles are permitted. The rule of six meant four-balls were immediately permitted in golf, a scenario not yet permitted in Wales, which is limited to two-balls. Golf courses will retain rules over no bunker rakes and cleaning the pin. Clubhouses will remain shut for the next few weeks, until drinks will be allowed outside.

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