Hockey's Return to Play

Posted by Eileen Edwards on 10 July 2020

After recent government announcements and the opening up of a number of activities, governing bodies of the nation’s major team sports have been working with Sport England and the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) on a return for recreational sport.

The government first permitted cricket to return, given the timing of the cricket season and the more distanced nature of the sport. This now allows other outdoor team sports including hockey to work through the appropriate approach to getting back to playing as close to normal as possible.

Further to our Return to Play Roadmap we are now exploring how and when hockey might be able to move through Steps 3 and 4 and towards Step 5. In doing this there are three key requirements that we as a sport must be able to demonstrate.

Compliance – be able to demonstrate how the provision of hockey at all levels can comply with government requirements.

Capability – be in a position that clubs and other stakeholders can resume hockey with the infrastructure in place to do so; with access to pitches the most significant issue currently.

Confidence – ensure that the hockey community have confidence in the measures that are in place so they can return with confidence to playing.

The extent of level of adaptations we need to make will be worked through and these will affect the speed and extent to which we can progress towards a full programme of activity being in place.

England Hockey's Futures Cup

From a compliance perspective England Hockey will be working with government to provide detailed evidence-based criteria for the resumption of hockey with a reduced requirement for social distancing within games. This will then develop into clear guidance for the sport about the requirements that need to be met when returning to competitive play. Compliance may also be linked to change in government guidance or different localised rules as we have seen recently in Leicester.

Once this guidance is issued we will then be seeking an understanding from clubs and hockey providers of when there is capability to return. This is a complex issue whereby many clubs and stakeholders will need to have access to sufficient facility provision and be in a position to be able to support any of the adaptations to ‘normal’ that are required. Beyond that organisations will need to be able to function well enough with viable financial models to operate within the new structure.

Finally we will need to be in a position where there is sufficient confidence to resume. This is about the level of assurance that our participants, officials, coaches and volunteers feel in hockey resuming. Different people have faced different circumstances in recent months and there will be varied levels of confidence in getting back out and playing. As a sport we must all collectively seek to understand and listen in a way that encourages people to come back at the right time for them. Particular groups that are at greater risk may desire different timings to return as well as individuals with particular circumstances at home. Clubs may also attempt to find ways to support those that have financial challenges in returning to hockey. Clubs and stakeholders have already shown an amazing capability to stick together in very testing times, we strongly encourage that to continue.

As yet there are no exact timings for the next steps but we will update as soon as possible when things are clearer.

Whilst we are working through these measures we will continue to plan for alternative scenarios with plans for revised and shortened seasons being finalised, as well as recommended adapted regulations and practices. A draft set of recommendations will shortly be sent to key organisations at regional and county level for consideration.

In the meantime, we continue to recommend to clubs to plan for the season starting at the normal time, whilst trying to mitigate any financial risks of doing so wherever possible.

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