Coronavirus: Welsh government gives green light for pro sport – BBC News


Swansea and Cardiff were both in contention for the Championship play-offs when coronavirus halted the season

The Welsh Government has confirmed professional sports in Wales can resume behind closed doors in line with the position in England.

The English Football League (EFL) subsequently announced plans to resume the Championship on 20 June.

Horse racing and snooker were the first sports to resume in the UK on Monday.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The resumption of professional sports behind closed doors is allowed under our regulations, including horse racing, and we are working closely with governing bodies to develop an overall approach for the safe return of all sport.”

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said in May he was not aiming to disadvantage Welsh sides involved in cross-border competitions.

Rugby’s Pro14 hopes to return to play on 22 August when teams from the same nation will play against each other before the season is concluded via semi-finals and a final.

There is currently no date for the the return of domestic cricket competition for Glamorgan with the England and Wales Cricket Board having extended their shutdown until at least 1 August.

The Welsh Government said on 21 May professional sportspeople in Wales could train while maintaining social distancing regulations. The next review of lockdown measures on 18 June will include assessing “enabling non-professional elite athletes, including our Olympic athletes, to train safely.”

Stepping up training

Cardiff City and Swansea City are hoping for permission to step up training this week.

The two Welsh Championship clubs have been sent strict protocols to follow by the English Football League (EFL).

A member of Cardiff’s staff is self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 in the latest testing batch.

“The protocols we are following are really stringent and they have to be. We are following them very precisely,” Cardiff manager Neil Harris said.

“We are working very closely with the Welsh government as well to ensure we are never overstepping the mark or getting one step ahead… the communication lines are open.”

The EFL plans to restart Championship games on 20 June, with Cardiff and Swansea still in play-off contention.

Harris’ opposite number at Swansea, Steve Cooper, is also learning to operate under the virus restrictions.

“As soon as we get the green light, we will be able to work with bigger groups,” the Swans head coach said.

“There will still be a lot protocols around the training, they are asking to do football risk-assessments around training exercises which is more than fair enough.

“But as long as we get them in place we are expecting to go into larger groups and make it more like normal training.

“I think everybody was more than ready to get back to it – albeit in the small-group training to start off.

“Before we knew it the camaraderie was back to where it was before we left and it was great to be back. In doing so I am so happy with the way the lads have come back.

“I was expecting it to be honest because we have done a very strong programme over the break, but they have exceeded expectations for the levels we were hoping for and have complemented that with a really focused mentality as well.

“Of course there is still a way to go before we play games, still a lot of work to do, but we are training hard and looking forward to the next step.”

‘It has taught all of us humility’

With the Championship set to restart on 20 June, Harris says training has been a welcome return.

“The 20th seems a reasonable date. If it goes back a week I am not sure it gives time to be able to finish the league season, have the play-offs and the play-off final by the 31st of July,” Harris added.

“It has been slightly different, maybe more of a non-League feel about it.

“They (the players) turn up in their training kit, with their own boots, their own drinks. They do their Covid-19 tests on the way through the main gates, whether that is the full test or a temperature test depending on what day of the week it is.

“Then they go straight to the training ground, straight to the pitch, they get their boots on – the most they can get is a strapping or blister control. Other than that they are straight onto the pitch.

“They finish training their 90-minute session then they disappear. They are literally back in their cars and they are gone.

“Its been in smaller groups, its been a really good environment, there’s a good camaraderie between the players really pushing each other to do the work. I think having a limited amount of time with them keeps them fresh and hungry.

“I think one thing the last few months has taught all of us is the humility – to enjoy what we do. It has been refreshing to see the players.”

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