Slowly but surely, Football Canada president Jim Mullin is seeing a resumption of the game nationally.
Football Canada, the sport’s national governing body, suspended play March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, the organization released its Return To Football guide to help amateur football officials reactivate play based upon the direction and standards established by local and provincial government authorities.
Return To Football isn’t binding legislation handed down to the provincial associations from the national governing body. Rather, it’s meant to provide guidelines based on information that’s current.
The document stipulates each provincial governing body — which is specifically called the provincial sport organization (PSO) — should comply with ”the requirements of its provincial and local government and health officials in terms of public gatherings, training and competition,” when determining a return to activities.
“It really comes down to the relationship that the PSOs have with their provincial government, their provincial sport authority and provincial health organization,” Mullin said. “When we suspended (amateur football) March 12, that was an easy thing to do.
“But to reactivate this thing, it’s a province-by-province and in the case of Ontario, region-by-region, reactivation.”
Football Canada and a 12-person task force headed up by Mullin worked with medical, training, legal and football personnel on the resumption-of-play document. They outlined stages for return and acceptable activities that align with provincial health-and-safety guidelines.
“It’s a multi-stage guide for the safe resumption of football and football-related activities in Canada,” Mullin said. “Just like developments around COVID-19 are subject to change, there will be additions to this document responding to those events.
“We’ll definitely keep our members informed on all updates regarding this issue.”
The document outlines five different levels of play. The first is the most restrictive, calling for strict social distancing with no field/facility access, contact activities or competition allowed.
The fifth allows for a return to full participation with modified delivery for spread mitigation. Social distancing would be limited with available field and/or facility access. Non-contact (flag/touch) football as well as contact competitive activities/drills and games would be allowed.
No province is currently at the fifth level but Mullin said that Alberta, Quebec and Prince Edward Island are all at No. 4.
Return To Football also outlines four separate levels of social distancing. They include:
— Strict. Maintaining a physical distance of two metres. No non-essential travel. Increased hand hygiene. Individual activities. Outdoor or within home. Virtual activities preferred. No contact activities. No competition. No shared equipment.
— Controlled. Maintaining a physical distance of two metres. No non-essential travel. Increased hand hygiene. Symptom screening in place. Small group gatherings. No or limited spectators. No exchange of equipment. No contact activities. In-club play or modified games and option.
— Reduced. Maintaining social distancing where applicable. Increased hand hygiene. Increased group sizes. Limited spectators. Inter-club or regional competition a possibility. Introduction of contact activities and potential modified games. Some shared equipment. Enhanced cleaning protocols in place.
— Limited. Maintaining social distancing where applicable. Increased hand hygiene. Potentially large groups. Fewer restrictions on spectators. No restrictions on activity types. Provincial or domestic scale events possible. Shared equipment. Enhanced cleaning protocols in place.
The initiative also outlines standard safety and hygiene guidelines that include practising respiratory etiquette (sneeze/cough into elbow), frequent handwashing and physical distancing (two metres). In addition, it calls for personal protective equipment (such as masks) being required when the two-metre social distance can’t be maintained as well as no sharing of water bottles, towels, clothing and other personal items.
Not surprisingly, there’s to be no spitting, clearing of nasal passages, handshakes, high fives, fist bumps, chest bumps or ground celebrations. And medical officials who need to treat an injured person must first don a mask and gloves before doing so.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press