England Athletics return to training infographic

Bang! And we're up & running again

EA fires the starting pistol for 'unlimited' group training

At 6pm on Friday 17 July, England Athletics appeared to set the sport free from its Coronavirus straight-jacket by announcing that 'unlimited' numbers of athletes may now train together in a 'Covid-secure environment'.

The announcement from EA said: “In summary: Clubs, groups and coaching/leading activity can now take place in unlimited numbers if it is within a COVID-19 secure environment, otherwise the limit of groups of six (including a coach or leader) remains. Each coach/leader is able to train 12 people at one time so, in a club/running group setting, multiple coaching/training groups can be run if the requisite number of coaches/leaders are present”. 

The announcement came in EA's Guidance Update – Step 3 following new Government advice released on 9 July 2020, further easing lock-down restrictions. But having just fired the long-awaited starting pistol for unrestricted training, will there be a recall gun?

There was an enormous amount of confusion as hundreds of comments were posted on social media by coaches, leaders and athletes, raising queries regarding insurance cover and seeking further guidance over certain definitions, particularly those relating to a 'COVID-secure environment'.

A link within the Guidance Update leads to the definition for a 'COVID-secure environment' that lists a number of requirements, including having a COVID-19 Officer, an action plan and risk assessment in place; completion of pre-activity health questionnaires (including details for Test and Trace) and compliance with Government guidance, including social distancing maintained at 2 metres. 

One particularly difficult area was the lack of clarity regarding the term 'environment'. Clearly, each setting is different and each will need a bespoke approach. For example, athletics track training is completely different from road or trail running. 

It would seem the headline-grabbing reference to 'unlimited' group training was arrived at by joining the dots from earlier advice regarding groups of six athletes (or five athletes and one coach); adding the standard recommended coach/athlete ratio (1:12) and multiplying by the number of coaches/leaders that may be available.

However, a review of social media comments by our online reporter indicates that many clubs and running groups will be insisting on rather more clarity before extending their training offer to 'unlimited' numbers of runners. We will keep runABC readers posted as the position evolves.

Infographic courtesy England Athletics dated 17 July 2020

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