Wales is very proud of its sporting heritage and the achievements of its sportspeople. I know this period will have been a very uncertain time for professional sportspeople in training. The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, as training and competitive sport has been suspended and lockdown measures have been in place since the end of March.
Our professional sportspeople are at the top level of sport and will be seeking to return to training as early as possible. This is their profession; they earn a living from sport – the sports field is their workplace.
The Welsh coronavirus restrictions regulations require everyone to work from home where possible; where that is not possible, employers must take all reasonable measures to comply with the physical distancing duty. In a professional sporting context, this means that training for our professional sportspeople can continue provided the clubs – as employers – can take all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing in the workplace, whether that’s at a training ground or at a stadium.
Last week, clubs in the English Premier League and the Championship clubs in the English Football League (EFL) made it clear they want to conclude the domestic season. The EFL, involving Swansea City AFC and Cardiff City FC, has provided guidance to clubs to support their return to training from 25 May.
This guidance provides that football clubs should make a phased return to first team training when it is safe to do so, based on medical and scientific advice. The EFL has produced a series of uniform operating procedures, applicable to all clubs, to ensure players and staff are returning to first team training in as safe an environment as possible.
We will work alongside the clubs to ensure the health of the players, coaches and staff comes first.
Resuming training for our professional sportspeople is an important first phase, which could lead to the resumption of competitive sport. Sport will resume in the future, initially behind closed doors, providing a source of broadcast entertainment during a period when mass gatherings may not be feasible. As yet there are no firm timescales for this to happen.
The Welsh Government is liaising closely with Sport Wales, the Welsh Sports Association and the national governing bodies to develop an overall approach for the safe return of all sport.