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Return to play

There's a lot for sport and physical activity providers to consider as restrictions evolve. We've got guidance on a range of topics to help you plan for the return to play.

We've opened three funds focusing on a safe return to play and narrowing the inequalities gap in sport and physical activity. Find out more and see if the funds can help you.

Return to Play Fund

On Monday 23 November, the Prime Minister announced that all areas of England would return to a tiered system of coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions on Wednesday 2 December.

We’ll update this page to reflect what this means for sport and physical activity as soon as possible but the information below remains an accurate reflection what is and isn’t allowed as things stand.

The current situation

Until 2 December, every part of England remains under the same coronavirus restrictions.

The current restrictions have many implications for sport and physical activity, but the main things to know are:


People can go outdoors to be active as many times as they like, either on their own, with their household or support bubble, or on their own with one person from another household while keeping two metres apart.

Children who are under school age if they're with a parent/carer, or people dependent on round-the-clock care, do not count towards the limit of two people from different households meeting outside.

Outdoor public places, such as parks, the countryside, beaches and public gardens can stay open, as can playgrounds.

All organised community outdoor sport is not permitted, meaning facilities including outdoor basketball and tennis courts, outdoor gyms and pools, golf courses, archery, driving and shooting ranges must also close.


Indoor sport and leisure facilities, such as leisure centres and gyms, swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, fitness and dance studios, climbing walls, archery and shooting ranges, must close.

People cannot meet indoors with family or friends unless they’re part of their household or support bubble.


All children’s grassroots sport outside of school - both indoor and outdoor - must stop, but schools and nurseries will stay open and activity will be permitted within these settings during school hours, with playgrounds staying open.

Schools can work with external coaches, clubs and organisations for curricular activities where they're satisfied it's safe to do so during school hours.

Frequently asked questions

With England-wide restrictions now in force, we've compiled answers to some of the most common questions on what it means for sport and physical activity.

Your questions answered

Government guidance

As restrictions ease, we'll promote and push for as much sport and physical activity to be permitted as is possible. Earlier in the year, the government compiled detailed guidance that can help you plan for reopening outdoor and indoor sports facilities, including keeping facilities and equipment clean and keeping staff and customers safe.

Read the government's guidance

A man working out on a treadmill.

Inclusion and accessibility

It's critical that the people who've been impacted the most by the new national restrictions are supported to get active when they're eased.

We've compiled guidance on who can get active, how you can engage specific audiences, how to ensure your facilities are and remain accessible when they reopen, and more.

See our guidance

Latest research

We've collated new research on people's current attitudes to sport and physical activity.

It looks at the likelihood of people returning to their activity of choice once restrictions are eased, what might hold people back, and how activity providers can help encourage a return.

See our research

A women enjoys a casual game of tennis in the park

Legal support

Legal issues arising from coronavirus need to be taken into account by sport and physical activity providers in order to safely return to play.

This guidance note has been produced with Sheridans Sports Group to give providers, be they clubs, governing bodies, community groups or regional associations, advice on what issues need considering and how to tackle them.

A man and a woman plan a cycling session in the winter

Autumn and Winter Activity Toolkit

We’ve produced a toolkit to help you keep sport and physical activity going over the next few months.  

It’s packed with advice, guidance and insight to support you to encourage participation in line with the latest government guidelines. 

Find out more

Clubs toolkit

Club Matters has guidance to help sports clubs prepare for reopening, how to develop a risk register, tips to enforce social distancing, and more.

Click below to access the toolkit, and scroll down here for more guidance, including how to help your volunteers prepare, and hygiene tips.

Guidance for clubs on reopening

Support for the professional workforce

We've compiled support and guidance for people either employed or self-employed who work full-time or part-time in sport and physical activity - known as the professional workforce.

It includes advice on planning for the safe reopening of facilities and support from the government.

We'll add more useful resources as they become available, including training opportunities to help you to reopen or return to activity.

A group of volunteers talking to each other on a playing field.


Volunteers have a vital role to play as sport and physical activity providers plan for when national restrictions are eased.

So what should you be thinking about when it comes to your volunteers returning safely and well-prepared? We've answered some of the main questions.

Read our volunteering guidance

Hygiene guidance

Advice and guidance to help sport and physical activity facilities keep their environment safe for everyone, plus downloadable posters and stickers.

Hygiene advice and guidance

Other support and guidance

To help people, projects and organisations through this crisis, we've pulled together advice and resources from us and our partners.

These resources share best practice and have clear actions we hope will help you to work through this crisis, help to keep the nation active and try to plan for the future.

Tools and advice to help you now

1. Business advice

Whether you're a community club, a local authority or the chair of a large organisation, we've got guidance to help you deal with the coronavirus crisis.

2. Connecting with and supporting your community

With guidance and best practice tips from Twitter and YouTube, as well as our own campaign assets, you'll be able to keep in touch with your community and help to keep the nation active.

3. Maintaining facilities

With confusion over what qualifies as essential maintenance for facilities, we're working with trusted partners to help you understand how to maintain facilities appropriately during this time.

4. How to move your activity sessions online

With restrictions on what can open and how often people can go out, many are turning to the internet to help them get active - we've got free advice on how to live stream exercise classes.

Tools to help you now

Prepare and adapt for the future

1. Understand the effect on activity levels

What impact is the coronavirus crisis having on people's activity habits and motivations? We've commissioned weekly surveys to help you understand just that.

2. Develop your skills

The future is still uncertain, but we've collated advice from experts on how to develop your skill-set to help cope with whatever the future might bring.

3. Getting ready for re-start

As restrictions begin to lift and organisations begin to start thinking about starting up activity again, we're providing guidance on how to go about doing it.

4. Local authorities and service providers

We’ve heard from local authorities and leisure providers the need for additional support and we wish to proactively offer specialist consultancy to help. 

Prepare and adapt

In addition to the advice and guidance we've collated above, our trusted partners are also providing news and assistance to their members.

Below you'll find links to the latest information and updates curated by our partners.

  • The legal bit

    The guidance, tools and resources provided in this support hub ("Guidance") is provided solely for general information. Sport England is not your adviser and any reliance you may place on this general information is entirely at your own risk.

    Care has been taken over the accuracy of the content of the Guidance, but Sport England cannot guarantee that such information is up to date or reflects any or all relevant legal requirements.

    Sport England makes no claim or representation regarding, and accepts no responsibility for, the quality, content, nature, reliability or safety of third party websites or services accessible by hyperlink (“Links”) from any webpage on the Sport England website  or Club Matters website, including, for the avoidance of doubt, any Guidance, (“Websites”) or third party websites linking to the Website.

    Such linked websites are not under Sport England’s control. Sport England is not responsible for the content of any such linked websites and/or any link contained in a linked website, or any review, changes or updates to such websites. Sport England provides these Links to you only as a convenience and/or for educational purposes, and the inclusion of any Link does not imply any affiliation, endorsement, or adoption by Sport England of the website or any information contained in it. When leaving the Websites, you should be aware that Sport England’s Terms and Conditions no longer apply, and, therefore, you should review the applicable terms and policies, including privacy and data gathering practices, of any third party website.

    The information contained in this support hub is general and not specific and therefore may not be suitable for you in any way. You should ensure that you obtain professional specialist technical and legal advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of information contained in any of the Guidance.

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