Essex sports team up for Return to Play


Outdoor team sport governing bodies in Essex have been working together to prepare for the return of organised sport in Essex.
The next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown, Monday 29th March is an eagerly anticipated date for the grassroots sport community. From the 29th March, both adults and children, will be able to play organised outdoor sport for the first time since the immediate lockdown announced by government on the 4th January. Many are desperate to return to their sport and are counting down the seconds to their first match or training session in months, but around half of adults have some concerns around returning to the activities they used to do.
Latest Sport England research tells us that around half of adults aren’t worried about returning to the activities they used to do, however, that means half do have some concerns. Of those who are worried and are parents and guardians of children, it is possible their concerns will be a key driver for physical activity levels for young people and this could have a negative effect on young people returning to sport and physical activity.

Lee Monk, Active Essex Assistant Relationship Manager explains; “The biggest concerns are social distancing, contact with others and large crowds. With hockey, rugby and football being given the greenlight to extend activity into summer, it’s possible some facilities will face bigger issues around adhering to social distancing and managing large crowds. It’s incredibly important that we have a joined-up approach to the return to play between sports. There has been some fantastic work done over the past year to make sport and physical activity safe during the coronavirus pandemic and we need to ensure we maintain public confidence in sport’s ability to have a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of the nation and do all we can to support our amazing volunteers to get the game back on safely.”
Sport governing bodies in Essex have been working together to tackle these concerns together face-on. Each sport has had a framework and a roadmap for the months ahead signed off from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, but local sport bodies have recognised the importance of working together as we emerge out of lockdown.

Daniel Feist, Cricket Operations Director at Essex Cricket said; “With the extension of the winter sport seasons into the summer, it’s possible there will be a greater need for pitches and places to play, which could lead to greater numbers on multisport sites and playing pitches across the county. We wanted to work with other sports to address the issues collectively, share best practice and encourage our clubs and volunteers to keep an open dialogue with other local clubs, rather than have an ‘us and them’ approach.”

Each of the sports, as well as Sport England and Active Essex have produced a wealth of resources, tools, and have delivered a series of training events for volunteers. These have been well received by grassroots volunteers and has improved confidence around reopening.
Nick Emery, County Development Manager at Essex FA said; “Our club and league workforce share a number of similar concerns around the return to play as other sports, so it’s been excellent to work alongside other sports to share best practice and ensure that we can safely get football back. With the football season being extended into June, some football pitches will have been repurposed into cricket outfields leaving some teams with challenges to find available pitches. Our positive working relationships with local authorities, Active Essex and other sports have helped us understand areas of possible concern and we are working with all stakeholder to find alternative solutions where possible.

Sally Tuson, Club Developer from England Rugby explained; “We have had brilliant attendance on cluster club calls, which has enabled dozens of rugby clubs across the county to discuss concerns and issues and ideas around reopening.”
Simon Dowdy, Facility Relationship Manager, said; “We have been working hard to support Hockey clubs as best we can with reopening and returning to play. Working alongside the other sport governing bodies in Essex has meant we can share information with our clubs on multiuse sites and encourage them to keep communication channels open with other facility users to ensure all can safely return within the government guidelines.”

Mark Gordon, Head of Academy at FC Redwing: “We have been delivering sessions virtually over lockdown to keep our players active but we all can’t wait to get back. Our participants are excited that they can play with their friends again and we have been working hard to create fun, adapted sessions to minimise contact that are within the new FA guidelines.”

Through this partnership, collective return to play guidance, resources, funding opportunities and FAQs have been collated here and will continually be updated. There are ambitions to widen this learning and a similar approach will be adopted for the return to play for indoor sport when the time comes.

Visit the Active Essex website for more information on Return to Play

For additional information, please contact [email protected]