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Return to play

There's a lot for sport and physical activity providers to consider as lockdown 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

Every part of England is now in one of three Covid-19 alert levels: Tier 1 (medium), Tier 2 (high) and Tier 3 (very high). Here’s a summary of what this mean for sport and physical activity. You can read our frequently asked questions here.

Tier 1 (medium)

National restrictions, introduced from 24 September, continue to apply.


Organised individual and team sports that have been through return to play protocols can continue, while adhering to the 'rule of six', which means playing in a group of no more than six people.

There are exemptions to this: under-18s, disabled people and, if for educational purposes, over-18s, can play in any number.

Other indoor activity, such as exercise classes, can continue in larger numbers based on the size of the venue, provided that people are in separate groups of up to six people, or larger groups if they’re from the same household or support bubble, which do not mix.

Gyms and leisure facilities can stay open, and the ‘rule of six’ applies to informal activity.


National governing body-approved organised team sport, exercise classes and outdoor licensed physical activity and sport participation events can happen in any number provided they're in line with Covid-secure guidance.

The ‘rule of six’ applies to informal sport.

Tier 2 (high)


Organised individual and team sport must be played by a single household or support bubble.

Exemptions laid out in Tier 1 on specific groups of people who can play in larger numbers continue to apply.

Exercise classes can also continue as per the rules under Tier 1, while informal sport can only be played indoors by a single household or support bubble.

Gyms and leisure facilities can stay open.


There's no change to the guidance for outdoor sport and physical activity – the Tier 1 rules still apply.

Tier 3 (very high)

Guidance under this tier is subject to change, depending on local and national government agreements.


Sport and physical activity can be played as per the guidance under Tier 2.

Gyms and leisure facilities may have to close depending on local approaches to business closures.


Sport and physical activity can be played as per the guidance under Tier 1.

Current government guidance

The government's compiled detailed guidance on reopening outdoor and indoor sports facilities; a framework for the return of team sports; keeping facilities and equipment clean; keeping staff and customers safe; what to do about restaurants, changing rooms and car parks, and more.

Read the government's guidance

Frequently asked questions

With the introduction of Covid-19 alert levels, and rules around what sport and physical activity can be played indoors and outdoors and how, plus what this means for facilities, we've compiled answers to some of the most common questions.

Your questions answered

A man working out on a treadmill.

Inclusion and accessibility

It's critical that the people who've been impacted the most by the lockdown are supported to get active as restrictions are 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 new toolkit to help you keep sport and physical activity going as the nights get longer. 

It’s packed with advice, guidance and insight to support you to continue to play sport safely 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 now lockdown restrictions are being eased further.

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.

Can't find what you need?

If you've seen any great examples of help and advice for the sector, or can't find what you're looking for here, please let us know and we might include it.

Get in touch

  • 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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