With the recent announcement of the Recreational Team Sports Framework and England Hockey’s subsequent submissions to government, we can now confirm that hockey can move from Step 2 to Step 4 of the Return to Play plans.
Working with the other team sports and learning from the evidence developed from the resumption of professional sports, England Hockey has been able to demonstrate to DCMS (Department of Culture Media and Sport) that hockey can be resumed safely. This means that moving to Step 3 (small group activity) will not been required.
With government approval, competitive activity can resume - both training and matches – outdoor and indoor. This is great news for many as pre-season will be able to start in earnest and local fixtures can start to take place.
However, England Hockey is also acutely aware that not all hockey players or organisations are currently in a position to play, with access to pitches in particular a significant challenge. Moving to Step 5 (the resumption of league hockey) will therefore be assessed over the coming weeks, ensuring that the decision to start the season can be made when there is enough confidence that clubs are sufficiently ready to start. We continue to recommend planning for a normal start date for the season and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Our full guidance for Step 4 is available on our Covid-19 Club Support Page, with a number of shorter guides and information also available. You can also access a direct link to our Step 4 Guidance document.
England Hockey will add to these documents in the coming days with a short video for players and will develop the guidance based on feedback we receive, including updating our FAQs.
The permission to play competitive hockey means that everyone involved will need to understand their responsibilities to ensure that we can all make the most of our return to the pitch. Clubs and other hockey organisers must follow guidance to ensure that they are compliant before starting competitive activity. For some this will take time to ensure that everything is in place and we encourage players and clubs to be sure that everything is sufficiently ready before starting. The risks during competitive hockey are low, but special permission has been given to resume hockey by government, so we expect all players to understand their responsibilities clearly and adapt their behaviours accordingly. All hockey organisations will need to conduct risk assessments, adapt processes and appoint Covid Officers to ensure this happens.
By ensuring everyone understands the expectations it will mean that the game is as welcoming to all those involved in the game as possible. We all have a responsibility to ensure that the standards set out are maintained and that all in the game from player to umpire to coach feel confident in the ‘new normal’ for hockey. The code of ethics and behaviour will be updated to make provision for Covid-19 related issues and guidance will be given for adaptations in competition rules.
Overall, this is great news for hockey, and we hope that clubs and organisations can make up for lost time enjoying the feeling of being back on the pitch and feeling the spirit of hockey start to shine through again.