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Interim return to play guidance for children in Scotland approved - 21 August

Friday, August 21, 2020

Message from Chief Executive Pete Ackerley

I’m pleased to confirm that sportscotland, the national agency for sport in Scotland, have approved our interim return to play proposal for under 18s.

This will enable BAFA affiliated clubs in Scotland with players that fall into this age group to move to organising non-contact practices and intra-club only non-contact games for a maximum 20 participants from today, Friday 21 August.

Please read the interim phase 3 guidance for Scotland - under 18s guidance for more information. To further support clubs, an updated risk assessment template and health pre-screening questionnaire for Scotland are also now available on our Covid-19 information hub.

Key points to note

- Maximum of 20 participants in a wholly separate practice or play group per half full-sized pitch

- Non-contact only practice

- Intra-club only non-contact games

- All activity should take place outdoors
- Equipment sharing permitted but should be kept to a minimum wherever possible

Clubs must have the following in place
- Strong hand and equipment hygiene
- Risk assessment of their facilities, operating procedures and planned activities

- Club Covid-19 officer / Covid-19 team leads appointed

- Pre-activity health questionnaire

- Attendance register

I appreciate that while this announcement is great news for our clubs in Scotland with teams for young people, it may be disappointing for clubs elsewhere and raise a number of questions. I have tried to answer some of these in the Q&A below.

As soon as there is further news to share, I will let you know, and I appreciate your patience in the meantime.

Pete Ackerley, BAFA Chief Executive



Why does this guidance apply to Scotland only?

As part of phase 3 of Scotland’s Covid-19 route map, organised outdoor contact sport for young people has been able to resume since early July - subject to Scottish or national governing body guidance being approved by sportscotland approval.

Over recent weeks we’ve worked with
sportscotland to create a proposal that fits with their latest return to sport and physical activity guidance and enables a meaningful return for children’s American football in Scotland to take place without further delay.

As a National Governing Body, we appreciate that the three nations of the UK that have teams under BAFA’s auspices have different timelines for easing restrictions using their devolved powers. We’re keen to make the most of the opportunities this gives us to get our member clubs back to activity as soon as possible, rather than waiting to try and impose a ‘one size fits all’ approach across the board.

Why is this guidance ‘interim’?
We anticipate that this guidance will be updated following progression through Scotland’s Covid-19 route map, to reflect any relevant changes to advice from sportscotland and to align more closely with BAFA’s wider plans once approved by the UK government’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

What about adult contact sport in Scotland?
Since submitting this guidance for approval, the First Minister of Scotland has confirmed that adult contact sport in Scotland can resume from Monday 24 August for adults. We now await further information from sportscotland on any specific requirements for the creation of national governing body guidance and any updates to the return to sport and physical activity guidance. We will then work on a further submission for approval for adult American football activity as soon as possible.

Why hasn’t guidance been provided for other home nations yet?
Our guidance for return to play in England is currently with the DCMS for approval.  We currently have no timescales for this to be completed but are in regular contact with the DCMS and hope this will reviewed as swiftly as possible. Once we have any update, we will share this with you. We are currently working on separate guidance for Wales in line with this.

Will the guidance for other parts of the country look the same as the Scottish U18 guidance once approved?
As I outlined in my update of 5 August, overall our proposed guidance initially looks at dispensation for larger group practices than our current guidelines permit, and to allow some play of flag football – this is similar to what has been approved in the guidance for under 18s in Scotland.

Many of the core elements of our guidance remain constant for all stages and locations, and have been in place from the outset - including the requirement for risk assessments, pre-activity health screening, attendance registers and strong hand and equipment hygiene. Going forward, as in the Scottish guidance for under 18s, this will also include the requirement to put a designated club covid-19 officer and team leads in place as larger group activity resumes. 

Can we run multiple group practices for under 18s in Scotland?
Maximum non-contact practice or play groups are of 10 participants per 1/4 pitch or 20 participants per 1/2 pitch – this is based on either a standard full-sized rugby pitch or 11-a-side soccer pitch as a guide.

Two groups of maximum 20 participants may practice or play on one full sized pitch. However, they must remain wholly separate throughout the activity and must be separated by a 2m ‘safe zone’. Staggered start and finish times and designated pitch entry points for each group are highly recommended to minimise any risks.

We’re using a different sized space / 7-aside pitch for under 18s in Scotland – what does that mean for numbers?
Should other spaces be used for practice – for example – a 7-aside soccer pitch or other area that is a third of a larger pitch, coaches and staff should use the above numbers as a guide and exercise their judgement while being very careful to not exceed the maximum numbers detailed. This should also be recorded and detailed in the club risk assessment.

What does this mean for players in U19 teams in Scotland?
Players aged 17 and under (on the day of activity) are permitted to undertake non-contact flag or touch American Football practice and game activities in line with BAFA rules. This is due to their reduced risk profile associated with Covid-19 transmission and infection.

Players who are aged 17 or under (on the day of activity) and are registered with a BAFA U19 team in Scotland can participate in non-contact practice and game activities together as a group. Players aged 18 and over registered with a BAFA U19 team in Scotland will unfortunately not be able to take part in this activity until we have approved guidance for adult sport in Scotland and should continue to work in small, socially distanced groups that don’t exceed current Scottish government guidance on how many people you can meet with outdoors – which is currently five households including your own.


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