Sports stars in Wales await guidance on when they can resume training

Elite sport training return is 'overdue' - Dai Greene

Sports stars in Wales are yet to be told they can return to training, with new guidance referring only to England.

Guidelines published by the UK government outlined protocols for a phased return of top level sport.

But the Welsh Government is yet to say how elite sport will return in Wales.

"Discussions are taking place with Sport Wales and the Welsh Sports Association to explore how sports can resume safely," said a Welsh Government spokesperson.

"These decisions will be taken on the basis of the latest scientific and public health advice, and will be considered as part of the First Minister's (Mark Drakeford) road map."

Elite Welsh athletes and para-athletes will be keen for a definitive answer on a return to training with their counterparts in England now able to resume some activity, providing it meets social distancing criteria under "carefully controlled medical conditions".

While all sports are awaiting guidance, the matter is particularly pressing for football given the potential of games returning next month behind closed doors.

While the League One and League Two seasons are expected to be scrapped, discussions continue about finishing the Championship campaign.

Cardiff City and Swansea City have sought clarity from the Welsh government over what activity is permitted at their training grounds under Welsh regulations.

The EFL have now had to enter discussions with the Welsh Government about Welsh clubs and their ability to return to training at the same time as league rivals.

The EFL has provided clubs with its own protocols ahead of a proposed 25 May return to training.

That followed the guidance for England - drafted by UK Sport - that Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden described as "an important milestone towards restarting competitive sport behind closed doors".

The guidance for step one of a return to training is based on participants remaining two metres apart, deep cleansing of facilities, physical and mental health checks and medical screening procedures.

It is not clear yet whether Wales will officially adopt the same guidelines.

The question of the Welsh football clubs was raised at a Welsh government committee meeting on Tuesday, with Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, saying: "It's a very good example of how we need to work across the nations of the UK so we understand the effects of the decisions being taken by each country in turn."

Gareth Davies
Chairman Gareth Davies says the WRU are "engaging" with the Welsh government over rugby's return.

With rugby also waiting to see how it could plan a way back, Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies said: "In an ideal world there'd be one set of guidelines, but I think we'd probably move towards that and there'd be some convergence from the respective administrations.

"As things stand, we follow Welsh Government advice, as health is a devolved function, we are engaging with the Welsh government and we have all along, whether that's health or financial assistance for the game.

"Through our Covid-19 working group, which has been set up to look at both the performance and the community side of our game, we are creating a set of guidelines, based on, linked to and moving alongside government guidelines.

"Our guidelines will cover all aspects of prospective return to play from safety and hygiene to player practice, supporter integration and clubhouse management."

Details of a return for both elite and grassroots sport in Wales are expected to be included in a coronavirus exit plan, which Mr Drakeford hopes will be published on Friday.

Recreational sport and the differences in restrictions between the governments in Westminster and Cardiff did come into the spotlight this week, with the opening of golf courses among the headlines.

The Welsh Government has held discussions with sporting bodies during the pandemic and has made £8m available for a sport resilience fund, led by Sport Wales, to "support clubs and partner networks which play such a vital role in ensuring the nation is able to remain active and enjoy all the health and wellbeing benefits that sport brings".