Coronavirus: Outdoor team sports to resume in Wales from 13 July

Groundsman prepares the pitch at Dinas Powys Cricket Club
Cricket clubs in Wales have not been able to play since lockdown restrictions were introduced in March

Recreational sport will be allowed to resume in Wales from Monday as lockdown restrictions continue to be eased.

The Welsh Government announced on Friday that outdoor team sports would be allowed to resume from 13 July.

Previously only non-team outdoor sports - such as tennis and bowls - were permitted below elite level.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the guidelines for the return of football, rugby and cricket would be issued by those sports' governing bodies.

"They [guidelines] allow low-contact sport, so football is okay," he said.

"A rugby scrum is a different matter. Coronavirus would be very happy indeed to see people doing that, so that will not be part of what we are reopening.

"The advice and the guidelines will come from the governing bodies of those sports."

No rugby union at any level has been played in Wales since coronavirus restrictions were introduced in March.

While professional players have already returned to training, these are the first steps towards a resumption for those who play semi-professionally or recreationally.

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) said it would host a webinar on Monday with "club operations managers representing rugby clubs throughout Wales" to "share how this update impacts on the phased 'Return to Rugby' plans previously shared with clubs".

WRU rugby operations manager Julie Paterson said: "It is vital that we keep player welfare and the impact on public health at the heart of our planning.

"Rugby is a close-proximity sport, even with modified rules, so a considered, phased approach is vital.

"We are determined to be part of the solution to Covid-19 so we are looking at all measures that need to be in place to ensure that players are physically prepared to safely return to contact as and when social distancing is no longer mandated by government.

"We know from discussions with clubs that they are keen to get back to rugby as soon as it is safe to do so.

"Our role is to ensure that we issue clear guidelines to safeguard the game and the general public and make rugby facilities as robust as possible.

"We urge clubs to remain patient and to actively take part in the online meetings we have organised."

'Thrilled to have cricket back'

Following Friday's Welsh Government announcement, Cricket Wales chief executive Leshia Hawkins said: "We are absolutely thrilled with the news, and as I know the cricket family in Wales will be.

"There has been an extraordinary amount of work by Cricket Wales staff and club and league volunteers behind the scenes over the last few months to get us to today. I must say a huge thank you to them.

"My team and I will now urgently work with colleagues at the England and Wales Cricket Board, to analyse the detail of the written guidance from Welsh Government on sport's return, when it is issued, and ensure that the guidance for cricket in Wales is signed off and published as soon as is possible."

On its website, Cricket Wales has published some of the "key adaptations" for recreational cricket's return, "in conjunction with latest Welsh Government regulations and guidance".

The guidance includes a need for individuals involved to "undergo a personal symptom check prior to matches and not take part if they demonstrate any Covid-19 symptoms".

It also stipulates "players should socially distance - including not celebrating wickets with traditional high-fives".

And like international cricketers, such as England and the West Indies players who are currently playing the first Test of their series, recreational players have been told not to use saliva to shine the ball.

Cricket Wales says "full guidance will be issued as soon as possible".

Cricket clubs in Wales will hope to salvage part of the season even though most formal league competitions will not take place.

Professional and elite team sports have already been allowed to resume in Wales, providing safety protocols are followed.

Glamorgan returned to part-time training earlier this month following confirmation of county cricket restarting on 1 August.

FAW to 'advise clubs and individuals'

The Football Association of Wales said it "welcomed" the resumption of team sports in Wales.

"The FAW and FAW Trust await the revised Welsh Government's coronavirus regulations, together with the Welsh Government's updated guidance, and will be working through the changes to translate this into easily understandable information to advise both clubs and individuals as soon as possible," read a statement.

"The FAW continues to work with the Welsh Government and Sport Wales to develop a phased approach for the return of football in Wales."

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