Return to Play

This page has been designed to give you the most up-to-date and trusted information with regards to national restrictions and any phased return to play. On Monday 22nd February, the Prime Minister announced a 4-step plan to ease lockdown in England.  The 19th July saw the Government announce the move to step 4 of the plan.

Roadmap out of National Lockdown:

From 8 March:

  • Schools will reopen on 8 March at which point under-18 sport can take place at school as part of educational provision, or as part of wraparound care, but should not otherwise take place at this time.
  • The Stay at Home restriction will continue and outdoor exercise should be with a person’s own household. support or childcare bubble, or with one person from another household.

From 29 March: 

  • Outdoor sports facilities will be allowed to reopen, broadening the options for outdoor exercise and recreation.
  • Outdoor facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, golf courses, and swimming pools, can be used by people in line with the wider social contact limits (rule of 6 or two households).
  • Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s – can also restart and will not be subject to the gatherings limits, but should be compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies.

Step 2: no earlier than 12 April: 

  • Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms, leisure centres, indoor sports courts and pitches, swimming pools, fitness studios and multi-sport facilities can open for adult individual/household use only.
  • Children's activities can take place indoors following the guidance set out.
  • Disabled people can take part in organised outdoor and indoor sport without being subject to social contact limits.
  • Travel should be minimised but can take place for sport and physical activity.   

Step 3: From 17 May:

  • Indoor gatherings of six people or two households will be able to take place.
  • Organised indoor adult and children's sport can take place, including group exercise classes. For organised indoor sport and physical activity, there’s no limit on group numbers so long as people adhere to capacity restrictions on indoor facilities.
  • Up to 30 people will be able to meet up outdoors. At this stage all sport facilities are allowed to open, including changing rooms however participants are encouraged to minimise use. Club houses and facilities that are able to serve food and drink can also open.
  • Spectators will be permitted to view events on both public and private land, but need to adhere to social distancing rules and social gathering limits (groups of 30 outdoors and six people/two households indoors). Spectators are allowed indoors, but the total number of all participants, coaches, officials and spectators must be aligned with the ventilation rates permitted by the particular venue.

Step 4: From 19th July:

  • Sporting events can resume without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements.
  • Social distancing rules (2 metres or 1 metre with additional mitigations) will be lifted. You should continue to consider the risks of close contact with others, particularly those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or not yet fully vaccinated.
  • The legal requirements to wear a face covering will be lifted in all settings. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, published guidance will advise that wearing a face covering will reduce your risk and the risk to others, where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces.
  • It is no longer necessary for Government to instruct people to work from home. Employers can start to plan a return to workplaces.
  • Children will no longer need to be in consistent groups (‘bubbles’), and early years settings, schools or colleges will not be required to routinely carry out contact tracing, which will help to minimise the number of children isolating. Contact tracing in specific educational settings would only be triggered if deemed necessary in response to a local outbreak. The Department for Education will shortly set out more detail and publish new guidance for arrangements in education settings from step 4, covering both the summer period and the following term.
  • The Government also intends to exempt under 18s who are close contacts of a positive case from the requirement to self-isolate, in line with the approach for those who are fully vaccinated.

A full summary of the Government guidelines is available here.

For specific NGB guidance, click here. 

Sport England

Sport England have explained how they will continue their support during the 4-step plan out of lockdown and have also updated the 'Frequently asked questions' document which can be found here.

Furthermore, to support the Return to play, Sport England have created advice and guidance to support the sector.

  • Inclusion and accessibility guidance - Guidance on who can get active, how you can engage specific audiences, how to ensure your facilities are and remain accessible when they're allowed to reopen, and more.
  • Support for the professional workforce – Includes advice on planning for the safe reopening of facilities and support from the government. Support for both Employers and employees, and training opportunities.
  • Volunteering guidance - Setting out some of the main considerations to help your volunteers return safely, well-informed and prepared. 
  • Managing liability and risk guidance - To give providers, be they clubs, governing bodies, community groups or regional associations, advice on what issues need considering and how they might tackle them.
  • Hygiene for sport and physical activity – Advice and guidance to help sport and physical activity facilities keep their environment safe for everyone, plus downloadable posters and stickers.

The guidance and all Sport England's support and advice can be found on their coronavirus hub

Club Matters - Restarting Sport and Physical Activity

In support of the new advice Sport England has released, the Club Matters team has developed content and resources that will help clubs/organisations to apply that guidance. The new resources, which are now included on Club Matters dedicated coronavirus response page, take a variety of formats to provide helpful guidance for clubs and organisations. Ranging from full workbooks to templates and checklists, the resources include: 

  • Re-Opening Toolkit – this resource includes info on how clubs/organisations can plan their return to sport, with advice on what they need to think about across different areas such as re-opening their facility and protecting their people. The following resources can all feed into this toolkit!
  • Risk Register Template – this template, with a dedicated user guide, is designed to help clubs/organisations introduce or update their practices regarding how they track risks.
  • Creating a Risk Assessment guide – this resource, which draws from the current advice from the Health and Safety Executive, provides step-by-step guidance to help organisations address risk, including coronavirus-specific considerations.
  • Understanding your People guide – covering the different ways clubs/organisations can gather the views of their people in relation to the coronavirus and how it might have impacted their ability/willingness to return to sport, this guide has top tips for how organisations can use that insight.
  • Social Distancing guide – this resource covers the different practices and considerations clubs/organisations may need to introduce so that social distancing can be implemented in line with current Government advice.  

NGB Support

If you are affiliated to an NGB we would suggest in the first instance to checkout their website. London Sport have also put together a really useful list of sports and their latest guidance on their website, you can view this here.


CIMSPA (The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity) have put together, along with other sector partners, the ReOpen guidance for planning for the safe reopening of sport and physical activity sector facilities. You can access this guidance here.

ReActivate - Free training initiative

CIMSPA and Sport England have launched a major free training initiate. ReActivate is a new, free, online training platform, designed to equip anyone working or volunteering in the sport, fitness, leisure and physical activity sector in England with the knowledge and skills they need to confidently return to work or restart their coaching activity, as we emerge from the coronavirus lockdown. For full details please look here. 


The above guidance should be used in conjunction with the ukactive recommended framework for reopening the fitness and leisure sector safely. This framework can be accessed here.

UK Coaching - Return to coaching

Check out the UK Coaching homepage for their 'Return to Coaching' section. They have webinars to help you make sense of the guidance and forums for you to join a community of coaches for peer support.

Activity Alliance - Reopening Activity: An inclusive response

As more opportunities to be active resume, new guidance will help providers to enable welcoming, and more accessible environments. Activity Alliance has published Reopening Activity: An inclusive response, in consultation with partners across sport, leisure and disability equality. The national charity wants providers to consider the guidance as part of their ongoing commitment to disabled people’s inclusion.

British Blind Sport

British Blind Sport, RNIB, and Metro Blind Sport have released some specific guidance for VI specific consideration and guidance for leisure and sport providers:

Mind - Return to play

Mind have produced a Mental Health guidance to support the return of sport & physical activity. The guidance provides tools and information required to support the mental health of staff, coaches, volunteers and participants as we 'return to play'. Find the guidance here