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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.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) forced the temporary closure of all sporting facilities and placed strict limits on the ways people could keep or get active.

Most outdoor and indoor sport and physical activity facilities can now reopen if those responsible for them feel ready to do so and if they can do so safely.

Indoor facilities such as gyms and pools can also reopen, provided operators follow government guidelines.

Team sports can restart when each sport's national governing body has published a government-approved action plan and related guidance on playing safely. This happened first with cricket, for example, which resumed from 11 July in line with the England and Wales Cricket Board's plans and guidance for the game's safe return.

Indoor facilities will need to prepare for reopening, so as the sport and physical activity sector gets ready for the continuing ‘return to play’, we’ve collated advice, guidance and resources below to help you.

Group sizes

While social gatherings of more than six people in England are banned, the government’s confirmed that organised sports and activities that have been through return to play protocols can continue, with one exception.

From 24 September, people aged 18 and over playing indoor team sports must adhere to the 'rule of six', which means playing in a group of no more than six people.

Sports and activities that have been through return to play protocols can continue to use this guidance, while adhering to the 'rule of six' for indoor adult team sport.

This change does not apply to children aged under 18, and people can also continue to use leisure facilities, including gyms and pools - classes within these venues can continue as they are now. People should not go to these venues socially in groups of more than six.

Outdoor sports played formally and under government-approved guidance, plus 
outdoor sport and physical activity events following event-organiser guidance, can continue.

That's because these sports and activities have stringent plans in place to reduce the risk of Covid-19, and because these venues are classed as Covid-secure given the measures they’ve introduced. The importance of sport and physical activity to people’s physical health and mental wellbeing has also been recognised by the government.

With advice likely to evolve as restrictions change, we'll monitor and update our guidance to ensure it's in line with the what the government is advising and we'll continue to listen to providers when they tell us what resources will help most.

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 indoor sport and physical activity facilities now able to reopen, and news on the return of team sports, 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.

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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