Governing body releases lengthy document on a return to restricted track and field competition in August

No races further than 1500m, which could require athletes to start at 200m intervals, plus 800m events run completely in lanes and sterilised sand for horizontal jumps looks set to be the future of the sport for now under England Athletics guidance released on Friday.

Following government guidelines published the week before, the national governing body has released a lengthy document giving guidance on a return to restricted track and field competition ‘in a Covid-19 secure setting’.

Click here to view ‘RETURN TO RESTRICTED TRACK AND FIELD COMPETITION IN A COVID-19 SECURE SETTING’

It relates only to track and field competition, with guidance from Run Britain for road and multi-terrain race organisers still yet to be released.

Included in the 46-page track and field document is event-specific guidance, which states that only every other lane should be used for all track events, with a social distancing requirement of at least one metre between individuals.

Athletes in 800m races must remain in their lane the whole way.

Social distancing must also be maintained in the 1500m, with the document adding that “matched ability runners could potentially compete starting at 200m intervals”.

Steeplechase events and any distances further than 1500m “cannot be run”.

Landing beds for the high jump and pole vault must be disinfected before and after each individual use by an athlete, while for the long and triple jump events, the sand should be cleaned with sterilising fluid spray and further cleaned during competition by turning and raking.

The document adds that licensed competition will resume on August 1, subject to successful pilot events which launched on July 11.

Track and field licensing opens on July 20 for competitions taking place until September 30.

In order for a setting to be considered ‘Covid-19 secure’, it must have a Covid-19 officer and develop a Covid action plan and risk assessment. All activity must also comply with government guidance around social distancing. Further details are available on a separate document found here.

Another document gives guidance for athletes and runners, featuring a section on off-track coaching and leading including road running.

There, it states: “Athletes and runners training in a public space, other than a track and field facility, can take place in unlimited numbers as long as the activity is taking place within a Covid secure environment setting. If a Covid secure environment is not in place the following will apply; activity can take place on a one-to-five basis only (i.e. one coach or leader and up to five athletes or runners OR up to six athletes and runners with no coach or leader present). These individuals do not need to be from the same family household, but all must adhere to the latest social distancing guidance.”

Martin Rush, head of coaching and athlete development, said: “We have worked with clubs and competition providers, British Athletics, officials groups, and consulted with government in the planning of a return to competition and the result is the guidance we are able to put out today.

“We know this will change over time and we recognise that this is a small step towards a new normal. Restrictions must remain in place to work within the guidance we have from government while slowly heading back to competition. The emphasis on competition provision should be local and small at this current point in time.”

The release of the documents prompted much discussion on social media, with GB international Jess Judd among those to comment.

“This is getting ridiculous!” Judd wrote on Twitter. “You can travel abroad and race but can’t race here. Can’t believe I’ve been waiting all week for this, more confusing and no progress.

“How on earth can you even consider having a British champs if this is what we are working with?!” Judd added, with the national event due to take place behind closed doors in Manchester on September 4-5.

“England athletics are penalising athletes that would do their events, if you could go abroad and race you’re in a much better position.”

Some made comparisons with team sports, with The FA announcing on Saturday that grassroots football can start planning a return, with competitive matches possible from August.

The above guidance relates to athletics in England only. The latest information from Scottish Athletics can be found here, while Welsh Athletics guidance is here and Athletics Northern Ireland documents are here.

» This post was updated on July 18 to include comment from Martin Rush

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