As you will have seen, the country is starting to see some lockdown measures relaxed and many businesses reopening, giving us some glimmer of normality resuming.
On Thursday 9 July, the Government announced that leisure centres will be able to open from 25 July. We are hopeful this will also expedite the full opening of outdoor netball courts.
We are continuing to work closely with the Government as well as other Governing Bodies and Sport England to plan and prepare for sport’s safe return.
We hope that it won’t be too much longer until we can all get back on court together at the community level, even if the game may look slightly different to the full form we are used to. With this in mind, we’re delighted to introduce to you our anticipated Roadmap for the return of community netball. There are however a few caveats to this that we hope you understand:
Our likely roadmap
- This Roadmap has been developed with anticipated changes to social distancing measures in mind and sees netball return in line with social distance permissions granted to the general public.
- Although we are working very closely with the Government, sometimes the decisions they finally arrive on still take us by surprise. We’re trying to prepare for all scenarios as it is a rapidly changing situation, so in truth the Roadmap represents our ‘best guess’ and will remain under constant review to put us in the best position to return as swiftly as possible.
- The 3 phase, 6 stage framework details our likely route back to court. We are currently in stage 2 of the fitness phase, with small groups of 6 allowed to meet in quiet areas for netball fitness-based activity. Although it may feel like we are still quite a distance away from full competitive netball, we anticipate a move to stage 3 shortly and we are preparing for the possibility that multiple stages might be unlocked at the same time.
- You will notice within stage 4 that we reference a modified version of netball. Whilst we very much hope netball can return in its truest form, we also know there is a chance that modifications may be required whilst social distancing is still in place. We have therefore convened a working group to look at innovations to return some form of competitive play as soon as possible.
How will the Roadmap be used going forward?
At each stage of the Roadmap we will issue detailed guidance direct to all member regions, counties, clubs and registered leagues. We will also update our website and FAQs. In addition, at each stage the activity that you can take part in will be demonstrated via the Virtual Netball Club (VNC), so all members can see what they can be taking part in and coaches can gain valuable session ideas. You will receive an email each week with a link to the VNC.
Following the Government’s announcement on 9 July we have reviewed the Roadmap and we will remain in Stage 2 for now. We have also reviewed the the guidance for this stage and can confirm the following guidance is still applicable:
- Netball fitness activity should continue to be delivered with 2m social distancing measures in place. The Prime Minister stated that people should stay 1m plus apart at all times if it’s not possible to stay 2m apart. Our guidance intentionally does not reduce to 1m as there is currently no need to be closer than 2m to take part in outdoor netball activity and this continues to help prevent the risk of infection spreading.
- On a full size, outdoor netball court, it is now possible for two groups of six to enjoy netball fitness activity. We recommend that the goal thirds are used and the centre third is kept empty.
- If the Netball fitness activity is being coached, a Level 2 qualified coach can oversee two socially distanced groups with an assistant. Both facilitators should be included within group size.
- Netball courts that are adjacent to one another can be utilised providing 2m remains between groups on neighbouring courts and that a one–way entry and exit system is established. If there is only one entry point, start and end times must be staggered.
- A good number have asked for clarification around ‘limited’ sharing of equipment. There is currently limited research about the extent to which the virus can be spread by sharing sports equipment such as balls. A cross-sport medical group, including netball, has been established to investigate this area and report back to Government. Over time, as the virus declines and our medical experts have more information, we will look to relax this.
The most up to date guidance and FAQs can be found on the website here.
We know there is a lot of information to digest and England Netball is committed to supporting all members to prepare to resume. It will be necessary for us to adapt and change the ways things operate off court and potentially on the court as well, but we will continue to provide updates ongoing to support this.
In the meantime, please stay safe and keep active.