Return of athletics and running (updated 15 July)

15th July 2021

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Updated 15 July 2021

On Monday 12 July, the Prime Minister confirmed the timeline as England moves to Step 4 of the UK Government’s roadmap.

As of Monday 19 July, most restrictions in England relating to COVID-19 will be eased. This of course is very positive for the return of athletics and running across the country.

The Key facts

  • There are no legal restrictions around numbers gathering across both indoor and outdoor settings. This means all venues and events can take place with no limit on participant and spectator numbers. Notwithstanding the normal risk assessments and event management practice must be adhered to.
  • There is no legal requirement for clubs, facilities, coaches or competition providers to collect data for test and trace or to display a QR code.
  • Currently there are no legal requirements around COVID-19 tests or NHS passports pre- or post-participation.
  • There are no restrictions on social distancing or requirement for test and trace to be carried out.
  • UK Government guidance should be followed for international travel. Exemptions to some of the restrictions do exist for those athletes classified as ‘elite’ and these are detailed in the UK Government elite sport guidance
  • There are no restrictions on car sharing, minibus or coach travel.
  • Participants and volunteers can now travel across England and stay overnight to participate and volunteer within the sport. There are no restrictions on volunteers sharing rooms with people from outside their family.
  • There is an emphasis on personal responsibility for reducing risk. Clubs and competition providers should give clear guidance that individuals should not turn up to an athletics or running environment (club, coached or competition) if displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Clubs and competition providers should make participants aware of:
    • Clear guidance to prospective participants on COVID-19 symptoms
    • Any safety measures they put in place to reduce risk
    • Reducing any potential transmission to staff
    • Ways to mitigate risk to vulnerable groups
  • Clubs and competition providers may (but this is NOT mandatory) ask participants to:
    • Sign in using a QR code and keep test and trace data
    • Take a COVID-19 test before participation
    • Wear a mask

This is fantastic news for the sport but the pandemic is far from over and is it important that we encourage the continued implementation of some of the safeguarding measures that as a society we have put into place over the last 18 months.

UK Government statistics suggest people are nervous about returning to normality. Only 40% of people feel comfortable going to indoor gyms, leisure centres or swimming pools. There is a nervousness of some individuals around the return to sport.  All individuals, clubs and competition providers should be aware of this and communicate effectively with all prospective participants to make them feel as comfortable as possible to take part in athletics and running activities.

Washing hands, using masks in certain situations (indoors) and maintaining social distance between one another have been proven to reduce the likelihood of spreading COVID-19. Therefore, it is important that all clubs, coaches, volunteers, and competition providers continue to carry out local risk assessments around the environment and participants to make sure they continue to provide the safest possible environment for everybody to participate and support the sport that we love.

It is also important to recognise that some measures that have been highlighted by England Athletics throughout the COVID-19 guidance issued since April 2020 should feature as standard in club risk assessments and health and safety processes i.e. maintaining safe and effective ratios of runners or athletes to leaders and coaches, and ensuring all participants are registered for training sessions with emergency contacts details available and health / fitness concerns identified.

Questions that club coaches and competition providers may wish to consider.

Q: Should masks be worn?

A: Individuals might still be classed as vulnerable to COVID-19, or just feel safer wearing a mask in certain crowded environments. Through a local risk assessment, the advice might be to continue wearing face masks in certain environments. Local operators of venues may encourage or mandate this as part of their operating procedure.

Q: Do we need to keep details for test and trace and QR codes?

A: Some athletes, runners and volunteers may wish to provide their contact details for test and trace or scan a QR code to ensure they receive updates if there is a breakout around a particular venue. Local operators of venues may encourage or mandate this as part of their operating procedure.

Q: What needs to be in a local risk assessment?

A: As with all risk assessments they need to be based on the local environment and participants at the session. Therefore, you may wish to include the following (amongst other mitigations) in your risk assessments:

  • Continuing the use of a COVID-19 coordinator
  • Implementing extra hygiene measures between users sharing equipment
  • Maintaining social distancing
  • The use of masks in crowded environments
  • One-way routes etc when accessing venues.

Q: What message should clubs, coaches and competition providers be putting out prior to sessions?

A: Clubs, coaches and competition providers should offer clear guidance to both participants and volunteers around expected behaviours prior to arriving at any sessions. It should be made clear to everybody potentially involved it is their personal responsibility not to turn up to the activity if displaying any of the COVID-19 symptoms as outlined in the UK Government guidance.  It is also a personal responsibility to assess personal risk at an event and be aware that clubs and competition providers may impose local restrictions for health and safety and COVID-19 reasons.

Useful links for further information: