Credit: Anthony Hayton Photography

Return to Play

We will be publishing resources and key information on the dedicated Return to Play page

As the government continues to plan and prepare for a further relaxation of COVID restrictions we want to do everything possible to support individuals and clubs to return to wheelchair rugby safely and responsibly. Over the past weeks we have been in regular dialogue with a number of groups and organisations in order to gain knowledge and share information so that we are in the best position to provide our members with the advice, guidance and support to prepare for a phased return to wheelchair rugby. I thought it would be helpful if I took this opportunity to bring you up to date with our current plans and thinking. Please note that there are some actions highlighted below for clubs to complete.

Club Support

We aim to provide clubs with access to clear guidance and protocols to support the return to play. What might this look like?

  • Website Page. We have set up a separate site on the GBWR website titled Return to Play and this will be used as the primary communication channel for all information relating to getting the sport up and running safely again. This is the site from which you are reading this document now! Eventually this is where you will be able to access advice, guidance, protocols and helpful templates. As we all know the COVID situation is a very fluid one with things changing and new information being released daily if not hourly so the intention is to review and if necessary update this page at 10am each day or immediately should there be a major announcement which demands immediate attention.
  • COVID-19 Email Contact. In addition to the dedicated web page we have also set up a COVID email address which should be used by members and clubs who have specific wheelchair rugby questions or comments relating to COVID. The email is covid-19@gbwr.org.uk.  Please do use this for all COVID communications.
  • Guidance / Advice / Protocols. We want to be able to support clubs with all the necessary documents that will help clubs prepare for and deliver activity. Along with a number of sports we are currently working with Sport England who are planning to release a suite of helpful documents which we will customise and make relevant to our own situation before making available to you. We envisage that these will cover the main areas of interest e.g. individual checks, hygiene protocols, equipment, contact practices, record keeping, risk assessment, relationship with venue hosts and operators, and advice for coaches and volunteers etc.
  • COVID Officer. We will appoint a lead GBWR staff member as the NGB COVID Officer. That person will be available to clubs for advice and support either directly provided or by referral to the most relevant expert. This will include things such as helping to interpret any guidance or put into practice protocols. We will look for every club to nominate a member to act as the club COVID lead. That person will be the point of contact between the NGB COVID Officer and the club and will be responsible for ensuring that all club practices meet the guidance provided. Can all Clubs please forward the name and contact details of their nominated COVID lead to the COVID email: covid-19@gbwr.org.uk by 21 June 2020.
  • Training. We will put in place support packages and training for nominated club COVID leads. We will look to deliver these through webinars and other online support.
  • Record Keeping. The need to maintain meticulous records of player groups and interactions will be an important requirement and we are looking at ways in which we can make this as simple as possible. Our current thought is to produce a simple template which can be easily completed and submitted online at the end of each training session.
  • Medical. We will continue to access and follow all advice provided by Public Health England. In addition we are accessing advice and guidance provided by Dr Stuart Miller, the Chief Medical Officer Paralympic Sport at the English Institute of Sport. We will share all advice made available and will incorporate it as relevant in the guidance we provide.
  • Insurance / Legal. We will seek professional support to ensure that any legal and insurance implications of all advice and guidance are considered.
  • Individual Opt-In. We envisage a process whereby all players, coaching staff, officials and volunteers formally ‘opt-in’ to taking part in organised training and competition. This would involve a check in process where individuals declare they have understood sport specific risks, protocols in place and where there is confirmation that they are physically and mentally fit to re-engage with the sport. It will also be necessary for individuals to undertake simple checks on arrival at training such as a simple temperature check.

Venues

A key consideration for any return to play is the venue to be used. All clubs have their own venue partnerships and all relationships are different. We are aware that some clubs have maintained an ongoing dialogue with their venue provider about conditions around return to play. Equally we are aware that some venues may no longer be available because they have been requisitioned for other use, e.g. we are aware that one regular venue is now a storage facility for PPE. To help us understand each club’s particular venue situation we will be sending out a short questionnaire. This will enable us to see how we might be able to support clubs in their discussions and preparations with venue providers. Can I ask that clubs complete the questionnaire as soon as possible.

Outdoor Training

We will also be asking clubs if they have a safe and suitable outside play area. One option we are exploring is whether it is practical for clubs who have appropriate outdoor space to start to come together within the current restrictions and guidance for non-contact training. This might include fitness training and ball skills. If clubs have such space available to them and they would be interested in this option being progressed we will look to provide the guidance. Of utmost importance will be the condition of any outside space. It will clearly have to be flat and suitable for wheelchairs and we will wish to ensure that any risk of chairs being tipped over is mitigated.

We Want to Hear from You

I hope this provides you with some reassurance that behind the scenes much is going on with the aim of getting you back into action as soon as it is safe to do so and government advice permits. We know that our wheelchair rugby communities consist of a wide range of people with different circumstances; we pride ourselves on being an inclusive sport and we want to ensure no-one in our family gets left behind and if they are unable to join any initial phase of return to play then we want them to feel they can re-join when they are ready to do so and the circumstances are right for them.

This is new territory for all of us and so there are no experts to ensure we get this right first time. It’s important that we all listen and learn from one another and heed all advice given. If you have views, experiences, ideas that we as a wheelchair rugby community can learn from then let’s have them. This will be especially important when we do start to return to play as this is when the practicalities of any advice and guidance will be tested. We will find that some things work well and others less well and there will be new things which pop up which we had not thought of. Please let us know by emailing covid-19@gbwr.org.uk.

Finally, it goes without saying that we can only facilitate a return to play when government policy permits and when the risk to our wheelchair rugby community is minimal. This may still be some time away and will be connected to when the government declares it safe to re-open leisure facilities. The safety of all involved in our sport remains the top priority as we develop guidelines for a phased return to wheelchair rugby.

David Pond

Chief Executive