For most of us the last couple of months have been about keeping safe and managing through lockdown as best we can but as a team we are now very much focused on how we come out of the crisis and get playing again. There are plenty of unknowns at the moment but it’s important that we don’t stay in a reactive mode hoping that someone will give us all of the answers because these do not exist and we are going to have to grasp the initiative and try to understand the art of the possible. Last week the government issued guidance on return to play but this was focused on a restricted return to outdoor recreation and on individual training for elite athletes so not a great deal of help to us other than reinforcing the reality that there is no quick and easy solution to the many challenges that face us. As you would expect, we can only facilitate a return to play if it is safe to do so. The health and welfare of our Members, players, coaches, volunteers and staff comes first and so all of our planning and decision making will be contingent on government guidance and health advice.
Our priority at the moment is twofold: first to develop a roadmap for the return of our game. We want to fully understand all of the issues we need to address if we are to ensure a safe return. We know it’s not going to be straightforward. We will have to work with venues to ensure they play their role in providing a safe environment, there will be a need for protocols on hygiene measures, the responsibilities of officials, chair handling and sharing, as well as addressing the obvious concerns around bodily contact in what is a contact sport. Second, we want to have a plan for play so we are assuming that our roadmap will allow us to start play again in September. If that proves to be optimistic then we will move the start date but it will be the roadmap and the solutions and timelines to dealing with the conditions inherent in that roadmap that will ultimately dictate whether September is a starter or not. In developing the roadmap we will be consulting with clubs so that we get a full understanding of local issues.
If we can get going in September then we will be hoping to reschedule the WR5s league between September and Christmas. After successfully running a South West Development League last season we will grow local competition opportunities around the country and the RDOs have been working with clubs to find out what would work well in their area. The South West Development League will be expanded to accommodate additional teams and we also expect new leagues to be piloted in the Midlands and Greater London area. The leagues will run on the basis that each team hosts a one day event covering the costs of the venue hire, and as an incentive to get the local leagues started GBWR will contribute £100 towards venue hire to each team that organises a local league event.
There are so many great things going on during this particularly strange time. Ayaz Bhuta’s Ramadan challenge to do 200 push ups a day, aimed at raising £1750 to go towards the Sri Lanka Disability Centre – visit JustGiving.com if you want to support him; Bob O’Shea has uploaded to YouTube some great exercises you can do at home, and Stuart Robinson was live on Facebook speaking on behalf of the OppO Foundation about his service time, and his injuries which led him into the game. A number of our members supported the Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day helping those with similar injuries with little pieces of advice to make their lives easier. I love all of this stuff as it reinforces our commitment to community and to being something greater than our sport alone. Thank you to all who are making this difference and who are turning lockdown into something which can have some positive impact.
Finally, it’s worth keeping your eyes out for funding opportunities for your clubs. Look out for local initiatives but also for national ones. Of the latter, the latest to be announced is the Active Together initiative where Crowdfunder and Sport England have come together to make £1million available to sports clubs.
As always, stay safe and healthy.