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Return to outdoor training for elite athletes announced

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Following today’s Executive meeting it has been announced that professional sports teams and elite athletes can return to training.

The agreed amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 will apply to elite athletes, including for example Olympians and Paralympians, professional Rugby players and those involved in international Cricket.

This decision will allow grant aided elite athletes and players playing in Professional Leagues to recommence training at outdoor training facilities with the proper management arrangements in place to comply with Covid related advice. The decision does not permit a return to competitive sport.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “The past number of months have been difficult for everyone and, while we do not want to become complacent, the Executive has decided now is the time to start to ease down on the restrictions that saw all sporting activities cease. As an initial step towards elite sports returning to competition we recognise the need to put arrangements in place to allow our local elite athletes and teams to return to collective training. This decision was not taken lightly and was based on the most current scientific and medical advice and it is still the first tentative steps to getting sport going again.

“Our elite athletes and those playing in Professional Leagues want to get back to what they do best and to do that they need to return to the track, pitch or court. The decision to allow them to return to training, in controlled environments and with the right support in place, has been based on assurances from the various sports Governing Bodies that protocols and Covid related education will be in place prior to the commencement of training.

“That means that athletes, clubs and Governing Bodies must ensure ongoing compliance with the Health Protection Regulations by continuing to observe social distancing guidance, have appropriate hygiene measures in place, limit the numbers involved and introduce proper record keeping arrangements.”

The Minister concluded: “I must stress that this is the first step towards getting everyone back to training together and playing together safely.

For everyone involved in sport at all levels, I would urge patience as we not want to undo what has been achieved by moving too quickly.”

Sports Governing Bodies should continue to engage with staff in SportNI, who developed a Framework for a Return to Sport, for guidance with regard to their specific protocols.

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