Coronavirus: Rugby clubs ‘clear to start training’

Saracens players lift the trophy following victory in the Gallagher Premiership Final at Twickenham

Saracens players lift the trophy following victory in the Gallagher Premiership Final at Twickenham Stadium, London. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Premiership and Championship clubs have been given provisional authorisation to begin non-contact training amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Professional Game Board announced on Tuesday morning that clubs would need to provide a written declaration to Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union that a number of key criteria have been met.

Stage one protocols allow for individuals or small groups to train in the same facility, while adhering to social distancing rules at all times.

Chris Booy, the PGB chair, said: “I can confirm that the Professional Game Board which incorporates representatives of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) Premiership Rugby, Rugby Players Association (RPA) and Championship clubs has given provisional authorisation for Premiership and Championship Rugby clubs to move to Stage 1: Elite Sport Return to Training Guidance.

“The clubs will need to satisfy a number of requirements to start Stage 1 as we continue the huge amount of work being undertaken to enable a safe return to training.

“The welfare of the players, management and staff is our only priority, and we look forward to the season resuming when it is safe to do so.”

The criteria clubs must meet includes ensuring that all players and support staff complete an education module to make sure they are all able to make a decision on whether to opt in to training with all the available knowledge.

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Clubs must appoint a Covid-19 manager and a Covid-19 medical lead, set out cleaning and hygiene standards for training facilities, provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and conduct daily screening, including temperature checks.

No timescale has been set for a return to contact training, or for a return to play.

Darren Childs, Premiership Rugby chief executive, added: “I know our clubs and players are looking forward to getting back to training and we thank all the teams for their patience as we ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing is our paramount concern.”

Rob Baxter, director of rugby at Premiership leaders Exeter, welcomed the announcement.

“A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes at the club to ensure all of our players and staff will have the highest standards of care on their return,” he said.

“Initially, all of our training will be carried out in an outdoor environment in small groups, after which we then review the situation and make the appropriate decisions based on the assessments and informations we have at hand.”

The Premiership Rugby board has also given its unanimous support to adopt the 52 recommendations set out in Lord Myners’ review of the competition’s salary cap regulations.

Myners’ recommendations include stripping titles for serious offences, and greater accountability for clubs, players and their agents.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs said: “I am immensely grateful to Lord Myners for his thorough, diligent and robust approach to conducting this review.

“It’s a credit to our clubs that they have acted so quickly to support these recommendations and take the Premiership Rugby salary cap into a new era. We want to create the gold standard for delivering sporting integrity, financial viability and competitive balance.

“The next stage is for us to consult with our clubs, RFU and RPA and to enshrine these new regulations for the start of the 2020-21 season, which will be created for the long-term benefit of our sport.”