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BLOG: AoC Sport update on a safe return to play

13 July 2020

The government has recently published further guidance on the reopening of indoor sports and leisure facilities and the resumption of organised outdoor team sports. Dean Hardman, AoC Director of Sport and Student Experience, explains what the new guidance will mean for colleges. We at AoC Sport welcome the recent news from DCMS regarding the pathway to a safe return to play for grassroots sports and look forward to continued partnership working with NGBs as they submit their respective plans to government. It is those plans, and the necessary approval, that will determine when different sports will be able to resume. As ever, our main focus will remain on ensuring a safe environment for all participants in AoC Sport and ECFA competitions. We have previously announced that AoC Sport inter-college competitions will not resume until the second half term in the Autumn and we do not anticipate that the recent announcements will change that approach, although we will consider the implications of these developments for specific competitions in some of our sports. As a membership body, we have listened to our key stakeholders, who have made it very clear that the anticipated disruption to induction processes and the unprecedented changes required to ensure a “COVID-safe” environment within colleges will mean that fielding teams in September is likely to prove very difficult. By delaying the start of AoC leagues and cups by six weeks or so, colleges will be better placed to plan appropriately and give sporting competitions the required focus when the time is right.

Supporting colleges

That does not mean that we do not want sport and physical activity to take place from September. Indeed, far from it. Our focus will very much be on supporting colleges to provide appropriate and safe opportunities for their students, whether that be intramural competitions, opportunities to try new sports or the chance to exercise together as a community. We know how important such activities will be in helping maintain good mental health for staff and students and in rebuilding college communities. However, we also recognise that some of our teams will be keen to return to play sooner, in accordance with government and NGB guidelines. If that applies to you, please get in touch with the competitions team. We are currently exploring ways to support those members and participating teams to return to competition ahead of our previously announced season start date and will be in touch directly to allow us to plan accordingly.