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SCOTTISH Rugby has unveiled a six-stage ‘Return to Rugby Roadmap’ (see infographic below) to help clubs re-launch safely in the new season, with an October start-date for adults now on the horizon.

Scottish Rugby’s roadmap for clubs and schools is aligned to the Scottish Government’s own phased exit from lockdown and in line with recommendations from World Rugby. Clubs are being advised that no adult competitive rugby is envisaged before October 2020, due to the need for stages to be worked through and uncertainty that still hangs over the country’s emergence from lockdown. They will also be required to appoint a Covid-19 Safety Co-ordinator, undertake regular risk assessments and online course assessments.

Scottish Rugby stated: “Clubs should not expect a traditional season in 2020/21. The rugby season may look very different, with regional and/or local fixtures likely to replace the competitive league programmes at many levels in order to stay in line with Scottish Government Guidelines, physical distancing and travel restrictions.

“Clubs and schools will be required to meet three specific criteria before any rugby activity can begin and meet further requirements before full contact training and matches can begin. Compliance with the public health, hygiene and physical distancing requirements in place locally at that time will be required at all times.”

Clubs will be required to meet the following criteria:

– Undertake regular risk assessments of indoor and outdoor facilities, including checks across club utilities such as electricity, fire alarms, gas and water and such factors to ensure a safe environment for players, coaches, volunteers and visitors to return to.

– Appoint a Covid-19 Safety Co-ordinator in each club before any activity can begin. The purpose of this role is to oversee public health and safety measures across the club, ensuring that the club is operating in a safe manner and adheres to Scottish Government and Scottish Rugby guidelines.

– All coaches, match officials and volunteers to have completed a mandatory online Scottish Rugby online course before traditional full contact training and matches encompassing a specific World Rugby endorsed Covid-19 module.

The ‘roadmap’ illustrates the sequence of events which need to happen for clubs to be passed to play, and Scottish Rugby is providing support and resources to help clubs meet the criteria and get back into training, and then matches.

However, the implementation of Phase 3 by the Scottish Government of its lockdown easing, expected next week, will enable Scottish Rugby to begin Stage 3 of its own roadmap which could allow the adult game to “Return to Train” for small groups, with potential for gyms to open. Further guidance on the return of contact rugby for Children and Young People, (as per the Scottish Government announcement on 24 June), will be issued to clubs soon.

Scottish Government’s Phase 4 will begin once the Covid virus is suppressed to low levels and is no longer deemed a significant risk to the public. This could trigger Scottish Rugby’s move to its final set of stages, starting with Stage 4 “Return to Train” for larger groups with the introduction of modified contact and activities before Stage 5 looks at starting the return to play, with potential opening of clubhouses and indoor facilities.

Clarity is still awaited, however, on a return to competition in youth and women’s rugby. Sheila Begbie, Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development said: “These are really uncertain times and our priority is to ensure that a return to rugby is done only when it is safe to do so. Despite Scotland making good progress in relation to Covid-19 we must all remember that the virus has not gone away.

“The safety of our rugby community is paramount, and we hope the ‘Return to Rugby Roadmap’ provides some clarity for clubs to support them with their planning and re-engaging with their players, volunteers and parents. Following discussion with the Scottish Government a potential re-start to the season in October seems realistic. Our re-start to the season will be highly dependent on Scotland’s continued progress out of lockdown and against the Scottish Government’s Routemap phases.

“We would very much like to communicate to clubs and schools that the 2020-21 season will be different, and we look forward to being able to specify more details in the very near future.”