In light of the rises in new cases and subsequent local lockdown restrictions coming into force across much of the population, Sport Wales Chief Executive Sarah Powell has outlined the importance of safe and responsible practice when taking part in sport and exercise.
“Sport and physical activity can play a huge role in our fight against this virus,” she said. “Being active brings immense benefits for both our physical and mental wellbeing, putting us in a much better position to have the resilience required to deal with such challenging times.
“We’ve been bowled over by the tireless way in which clubs, coaches, volunteers and different providers have taken on the challenge in recent months of enabling people to return to their favourite activities in a safe and responsible way.
Things may look and work a little differently at the moment, but the new rules are in place to protect everyone and ensure that sport doesn’t increase the risk of transmission. The last thing we want to happen is for sport to be responsible for any spikes in cases.
“National Governing Bodies are doing a fantastic job in really difficult circumstances and we must respect the safety procedures they have developed for each sport after following Welsh Government guidelines. We also recognise the pressure the situation is putting on volunteers in particular who are doing everything they can to put sport on safely. We are extremely grateful for their efforts.
“We are confident that if everyone respects the rules then sport has a very powerful to role to play.
Throughout the pandemic, Sport Wales has worked closely with the Welsh Sports Association to put forward recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider when, and how, activities should resume.
For the first time in months, no recommendations were submitted to open up sporting opportunities further in the latest government review. Instead, Sport Wales is keen for everyone to take stock of the current situation and protect what we have.
Sarah added: “We are all in this together. A massive amount of work has gone into getting sport back up and running. Let’s not undo that progress.
“At times, with local lockdowns and other restrictions coming into place, this might require a sport having to put the brakes on for a short period whilst they take the opportunity to review the situation, then provide support and education to local clubs before going again. We just ask that people be patient and understand that safety is the priority.
“We don’t know how long the effects of Covid-19 will be felt, or what level of restrictions or guidelines sport will be operating under and for how long. Guidelines and evidence will continue to evolve. Everyone working in the sector must move with it and be prepared to think creatively about how we continue to make activities available in a responsible manner throughout the winter.
“We must be prepared to look at how we do things differently for the short and long term. The sector is under a great deal of pressure, but we also have an opportunity to make changes that could improve the way sport is delivered in the future.”
National Governing Bodies for sport are responsible for providing leadership and guidance to ensure activities can be done safely and appropriately. While the exact guidance varies between sports, there’s a common theme with social distancing, new hygiene practices and the limiting of shared equipment central to creating safe sport environments.
Much of that comes at a cost, but financial support is available in the form of Sport Wales’ Be Active Wales Fund. To help keep Wales moving, sports clubs and organisations can apply for funding to either protect them through the crisis, or assist their preparations for a return to activity. Visit www.sport.wales/.beactivewalesfund for details.
RYA Cymru Wales CEO Gerwyn Owen commented: "Sailing is a life long sport that has both physical and mental health benefits. We have worked closely with our stakeholders through the pandemic to ensure a safe return to activity for the boating community."
"We have provided regular updates to our return to boating guidance pages as well as resources for clubs. I've been delighted to see clubs across Wales return to activity following strict guidelines and adopting to the "new normal".