CRFU COVID TIER 1 GUIDELINES
On Wednesday evening 2nd Dec, the RFU released their return to Play and Off Field Activity Guidelines which are themselves based on extensive discussions with The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Since then CRFU in common with other CB’s around the country have been analysing how these provisions affect the game in their counties and seeking amplification where necessary.
Cornwall is unique as CB as, at present, we are the only CB with Covid Tier 1 status and whilst it allows greater freedom in some areas of our rugby activity, it also places a moral duty on us all not to place that category in jeopardy. The RFU guidance has thrown up several anomalies which affect us, our clubs and neighbouring CB’s. In seeking to resolve or clarify these anomalies CRFU has taken the stance that personal safety is paramount, that nothing should be done to prejudice Tier 1 status or undermine the spirit of the provisions and is in the longer term best interests of our game.
It is the RFU’s position that although contact rugby is now permitted, clubs are not being encouraged to engage in contact rugby if it is to the detriment of the players themselves. It is also a player’s decision to decide whether he is fit and able to engage in contact rugby after what has been a lengthy lay-off far in excess of a normal closed season. In determining the level of rugby a club wishes to play and when exercising their duty of care, clubs should recognise and account for the potential adverse influence of other clubs’ actions or plans.
The RFU document, by nature of its scope is open to misinterpretation so CRFU has sought amplification from other Government sources as outlined below. For further in-depth analysis this link provides useful assistance https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-grassroots-sports-guidance-for-the-public-and-sport-providers
Every club should, by now, have a comprehensive COVID19 risk assessment. This should be revised with emphasis placed to include an adapted Event Safety plan to incorporate all the latest COVID requirements. This link may assist clubs in re-examining their policies. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/providers-of-grassroots-sport-and-gym-leisure-facilities
The 4000 limit applies to elite sport and does not override government Covid provisions at our level. Therefore each club needs to carefully consider the capacity of their ground and how they are going to manage the numbers of spectators at a game. Seated facilities with stands make it easier to maintain social distancing in the same manner as seen on TV by blocking out seats. Spectators standing on the touchline or on raised embankments provide more of a challenge, especially at games with a larger than normal crowd such as local derbies. In this instance part of the attraction is the atmosphere and the element of socialising which are likely to erode even the best intentioned Covid precautions. Therefore clubs may have to consider additional measures such as reducing capacities so that people are not coerced into breaches of the regulations and possible pre-ticketing to control numbers and locations.
Maintaining groups of no greater than 6 must be actively encouraged which may mean additional stewarding or beer tents. There is no flexibility in these rules and breaches would be a public health risk which could ultimately affect a clubs ability to host a game or even worse jeopardise the sport as a whole.
The bottom line therefore must be that if clubs cannot be sure they can effectively manage the crowds, then games should not go ahead with spectators present.
In respect of bars, the same rules apply throughout the County and are harder to enforce at sporting events and venues. If a the club bar is licensed, then food and drink must be ordered and served to customers seated exactly as in pubs. If the spectator is from a Tier 2 region, as is potentially the case in the East of the county or with students returning from University, drink should not be consumed without an accompanying substantial meal.
It is recognised by CRFU that the return to rugby has coincided with the festive season and that these provisions may impinge on traditional festive fixtures, however, the safety of the players, spectators and maintaining the overall health of the game for the rest of the season must be weighed against the commercial aspects of festive fixtures.
Fixtures with clubs from other Tier areas
The fixture calendar has been extensively revised and this is now further complicated by the creation of the Tier system. Nonetheless, clubs must be conscious that a fixture with a team from outside Cornwall has, by definition, have a higher risk of carrying a COVID infection. At time of writing, Tier 3 residents are advised not to travel except for some exempt purposes such as work. For the majority of Cornish clubs it is hard to argue that a Rugby match fulfils that category. Equally, the advice is not to travel to a tier 3 area so in reality, games with tier 3 are not particularly feasible.
Players and officials from a different tier should be following the rules of the tier they are from so therefore host Tier 1 clubs must, where possible and practicable, make appropriate provisions so that the requirements of Tier 2 visitors can be met. Under the rules, no Tier 3 adult players, officials or spectators should be visiting a Cornish ground. For clubs playing matches against teams bordering Tier 3 areas, they must assure themselves by whatever means possible that they are not playing against or training with a person from a Tier 3 area. In this circumstance, in common with all aspects of the game, it is recognised that higher than normal levels of mutual trust will be required between players, their clubs and governing bodies.
The above guidance is not exhaustive but is in response to enquiries received in the 48 hours since the RFU announcement. Maintaining Tier 1 status is dependent on several factors of which rugby is just one. Nonetheless, in publishing this amplification, CRFU is acutely conscious of the need for Cornish Rugby to actively contribute to keeping Tier 1 status and in doing so is relying on all those connected with the game to respect the regulations to the best of their ability. It is also stressed that the rules are changing regularly so CRFU will endeavour to update any guidance as soon as is practicable.