No grand parents and one parent allowed

The federal government’s plan for a return to sport

Youngsters like Hayden Smith might not have the usual support at games under Sport Australia’s guideline for a return to community sport.

Supporters will be few and far between this sport’s season, after the federal government’s leading sport’s agency, Sport Australia, unveiled new guidelines on Sunday for the return of community sport across the country.

These guidelines, which will be implemented at all levels of community sport, ban grandparents from attending and permit only parent to each game, preferably from the comfort of their own car if at all possible.

The strict protocol also put a stop to high-fives, handshakes and huddles, and any non-essential contact, while change rooms will be closed and kids will have to shower and change at home.

In one of the biggest changes, clubs and associations will also need to appoint a Covid-19 safety coordinator to liaise with other clubs and peak bodies, during the four stages of a return to sport, outlined in the below article, “Four stages of return to community sport.”

Sport Australia acting CEO, Rob Dalton, said the new rules in the return to sport toolkit are primarily aimed at supporting the safe resumption of community sport, with many clubs and associations reliant on a dedicated workforce of volunteers.

“The main thing I want to emphasise to all sports and participants is that public health is the most important consideration – advice from your government health authorities is paramount,” Dalton said.

Dalton stressed the important of clubs and associations liaising with their governing bodies and councils before any quick-fire return, reminding participants that their health and safety was the number one concern.

“I urge all sporting participants not to jump the starting gun without first the consent of your relevant state and territory government health authorities,” Dalton said.

“Australia’s sporting community is desperately keen to get back in the game and resume playing the sports they love, but we need to ensure that is done in a safe, responsible and low risk manner so that we can keep moving forward towards the full resumption of sport.”

Minister for Youth and Sport, Richard Colbeck, backed up Dalton’s comments, suggesting that it was down to the participants now that these guidelines had been implemented.

“Sporting clubs and organisations across Australia will play an enormous part in getting the nation back on track as we recover from the impact of Covid-19,” Colbeck said.

“The safe return of competition relies on a responsible rollout, where everybody follows advice and takes precautions.

“We have a big challenge ahead of us – but together the national principles, the AIS framework and Sport Australia’s toolkit offer tangible advice to ensure community sporting groups are prepared to control and deal with the virus in this new era.”

As much as he was pleased to see a potential return to sport and junior rugby league, Tumut Minor League president Brad Baker said these changes would be hard to implement by a 100% volunteer-based organisation.

“I’m all for the return of sport but it has to be easy to manage and realistic, we are all volunteers,” Baker said.

“It could be feasible if managed well, but I think it will be very hard for regional areas and smaller clubs.”

Baker had massive concerns over how committees would police breaches and stop families who may break the rules in order to watch their children and grand children play.

“We have split families to deal with, which will be difficult enough, and how do we police these rules, how do we go up to a family that has travelled from another town and tell them they can’t stay on the ground? You just can’t.”

Another issue Baker touched on was the added strain on an already stretched TML committee, suggesting it wouldn’t be easy to find a willing Covid-19 safety coordinator.

“It will be even harder to get parents involved this season,” Baker said.

“If there is only one parent, they’re obviously going to watch their kid play and leave and they won’t be staying to do their canteen and sports trainer duties, let alone jump on the committee.”

The TML president admitted things could look different for junior rugby league though, indicating that they will wait for correspondence from Group 9 junior rugby league or the NSWRL.

“Whatever guidelines NSWRL put in place to help us manage this are the ones we will follow,” Baker said.

“They are our governing body and we can’t do anything until we hear from them.”

Tumut Eagles junior vice president Sandra Howell said that the club was still in the early stages of any return and that information was coming at them thick and fast.

“We will be making some decisions soon, we are having weekly Zoom meetings at the moment but the information is changing so quickly,” Howell said.

The Eagles will be looking to reintroduce senior training first and foremost and couldn’t guarantee a return for junior football.

“We are going to get the seniors going first and get the juniors going after that,” Howell said. 

“We still have to work everything out and everything is so unclear and things are happening so fast, it’s hard to work it all out.”

Similar to Baker, Howell was awaiting more news from Football Wagga Wagga, the governing body for the Eagles across all age groups.

“We are part of their association and we will have to follow their guidelines and the club might even implement some of their own things,” Howell said.

“We are all keen to get back to playing and we have asked our members as well, and we have only received positive feedback, which suggests the kids want to play, which is great.”

It seems as though the current Sport Australia announcement has sporting bodies now working hard to release their respective return to training and playing guidelines.

It is expected in the coming week that a variety of announcements will be made, outlining these returns and how participants will be impacted.

Four stages of a return to community sport…What does this mean for you?

As much as it was publicised and criticised over the weekend, Sport Australia have released a return to sport toolkit, which essentially guides clubs and associations at every level to a full return to sport.

This concept relies heavily on a Covid-19 safety plan and the addition of Covid-19 safety officer, a new volunteer role that clubs and competitions will have to accommodate for.

As part of the toolkit, an initial checklist works through progressive steps such as: relevant approvals from council and governing bodies; facilities management; training behaviours; hygiene protocols; management of illness and; the communicating these processes with members.

Sport Australia CEO Rob Dalton highlighted the importance of the toolkit for competitions to get back to training and playing, whilst touching on each stage of the process. 

“The Toolkit works through four stages of return to sport: Prevent, Prepare, Respond and Recover,” Dalton said.

“In the Prevent stage, it concentrates on steps like getting your Covid-19 safety plan in place and communicating that with members.

“Practical steps in the prepare stage are looking at safe facility practises, like hand-sanitisers, attendance registers at training and limiting shared equipment as much as possible.

“Sports also need to be prepared for illness management, noting things can change quickly in your local area, which is covered by the Respond and Recover stages.”

With the introduction of this toolkit, Dalton put the responsibility back on clubs and association, suggesting that a facilitated return to community sport required the support of everyone involved.

“To help your sport return, Sport Australia also calls on everyone involved – participants, coaches, officials, administrators, volunteers, families and the broader community – to take individual responsibility and respect the health of all those around you,” Dalton said.

“We know this is a tough time for sport and all Australians. But if we can each commit to getting through this challenging period together, we have every confidence sport will play a prominent role in lifting the nation’s energy and spirits again.”