Increased restrictions have been confirmed by Hockey Ireland following updated government advice both north and south of the border in the past few days.
The Republic moves to Level 5 from Thursday, October 22 with restrictions remaining in place for six weeks. These restrictions will apply to all Clubs in the Republic of Ireland.
Under Level 5, individual training only is permitted for adults, and no matches of any kind are to take place.
Non-contact training can continue for school-aged children in pods of 15 with no player to come within two metres of another players. Exercises involving tackling (such as 1v1s), marking or match play should not be undertaken.
The senior men’s and women’s international squads are classified as “elite” and are permitted to continue to train and play behind closed doors.
This category has been defined by the ‘Return to Sport Expert Group’ which has been established by the ROI government to provide guidance to Ireland’s sporting bodies to prepare for the phased return to sporting activity.
Under Level 5, while domestic travel restrictions do not allow movement outside of a 5-kilometre radius of home, it is permitted to take school-aged children to club training sessions. Club coaches may also travel to training sessions.
The EY Hockey League and the top tiers in the provinces had previously been afforded an exemption under the classification of “senior club championships” but this section of competition has not been allowed to proceed since last week.
Ulster Hockey has advised that all hockey club training is suspended until 14 November 2020. This coincides with the timing of the NI Executive’s current restrictions.
It follows the NI Executive’s announcement of restrictions on October 14. Explaining their position, the provincial body said:
“We have also sought legal advice on the new health protection legislation: the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No.2) (Amendment No. 9) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020.
“A defining factor has been the interpretation of the term ‘No Contact’ in the new legislation, and the implications to members where this is breached. Having considered this advice, the Board considers that there is significant risk to our member clubs if training were to continue.
“In addition to considering the legal implications, we also considered the escalating spread of COVID across our communities. The health and well-being of our members is paramount at this time.
“Whilst there is limited evidence of transmission of the virus within a training or match context, there are some key risks around travel where we consider there is a potential that continued hockey training may facilitate the transmission of the virus. We are also aware that many clubs may be unable to access their usual training facilities which are run by local authorities or schools.
“Considering all these factors, the Management Board has agreed that we must act responsibly in these unprecedented times and that we have a duty to protect our members and the communities in which they operate.
“Therefore, Ulster Hockey would advise that all hockey club training is now suspended until 14th November 2020. This coincides with the timing of the NI Executive’s current restrictions.
“The COVID situation is ever-changing and we will continue to monitor the situation and will react to any changes in government advice.
“In the meantime, Ulster Hockey commends all members of the hockey family for the efforts that have been made to ensure the sport is delivered in a safe environment. This is a difficult decision to take, and we’re all disappointed not to be able to play, watch and enjoy the sport we love, but we feel this is the right decision in the circumstances, and we hope the hockey family can come back stronger in a few weeks’ time.”
*The Hockey Ireland Return to Play and Competition Protocol will be updated and available at https://hockey.ie/covid-19/