Today (Friday 31 July) First Minister Mark Drakeford made the positive announcement that sports and leisure facilities can re-open in Wales from Monday 10 August. We are supportive of this news and of our colleagues in the sports and leisure sector, who have been working tirelessly to achieve this decision.

What does today’s announcement mean for netball in Wales?

We are seeing the opportunities for a gradual return to netball moving ever closer and we are working collaboratively to ensure a safe return to our sport as soon as possible. However, the announcement from the First Minister regarding the re-opening of facilities does not mean any immediate changes for netball.  Netball in Wales remains at Stage 2 of our ‘Return to Play’ roadmap at present. Nevertheless, today’s announcement is an exciting step for our sport and could mean that netball returns sooner than we had anticipated. Whilst we are delighted by this news, there is still work to be done to be able to get us back onto court and to be able to play netball in its fullest form.

Should I book a facility for my Club / League?

We understand that many people are excited by today’s announcement and are eager to get back on court. However, we are also aware that many are worried about not being able to access space unless they book courts as leisure facilities slowly re-open. Any training a club undertakes has to be in alignment with the current stage of our ‘Return to Play’ roadmap (currently at Stage 2) If you choose to book a venue, we strongly recommend that you ensure that you are aware of any cancellation policies and any costs that you will potentially incur if you are unable to use the facility. The decision to book facility space is to be made at your own discretion. The ‘Return to Play’ roadmap must be adhered to throughout all of its Stages.  

What does the announcement that Under 11s no longer have to adhere to social distancing mean for netball?

We were surprised by inclusion of this change in regulations for children aged under 11 years old. Welsh Netball is currently considering the implications of this rule change for our ‘Return to Play’ roadmap and will announce any subsequent changes in due course.

What’s next?

Welsh Netball must now submit a risk assessment, medical evidence and a comprehensive action plan for approval to the Welsh Government. This must demonstrate how we can safely return to some form of netball. We have already begun working on this guidance behind the scenes. We aim to submit our plan to Public Health Wales, Sport Wales and Welsh Government by mid-August. During this time we are also hopeful to move further along our ‘Return to Play’ roadmap. Until the risk assessment, action plan and next phase of netball’s return has been signed off by Welsh Government, netball must remain in the earlier stages of the roadmap. This means that, for now, our Stage 2 guidance must continued to be followed, which allows for outdoor training for up to 15 participants (including coaches) outdoors, observing social distancing with no sharing of equipment.

What Can Clubs / Leagues and Areas do in the meantime?

Introducing: #NetsGetReady

Over the next few weeks and months each club, league, and area association will have work to do to ensure they can deliver netball safely once the our netball action plan has been approved by the Welsh Government. Welsh Netball will support you every step of the way to achieve these mandatory requirements via training, resources and templates so that together we can get back on court as quickly and as safely as possible. This will be done through our #NetsGetReady steps.

There are at least 5 mandatory #NetsGetReady steps that all clubs and netball organisers will be required to complete before they re-commence netball activities from Stage 3 and beyond of the Return to Play roadmap. These steps are:

  1. Appoint a COVID-19 Co-ordinator 
  2. Complete COVID-19 Co-ordinator Training (online webinar) 
  3. Undertake a robust COVID-19 Risk Assessment 
  4. Complete the Welsh Netball ‘Return to Play’ registration form 
  5. Re-affiliate your club and members to Welsh Netball for 2020/21 season 

Detailed training, advice and guidance will be provided to our clubs, leagues and associations to support them through these steps. Further information on this will be made available shortly.

Once the #NetsGetReady steps have been completed, you will receive your #NetsGetReady endorsement from Welsh Netball. This will give confidence to both facility providers and your netball participants. Our aim is to ensure that every club and team is fully prepared before netball begins.

We know that you all want to get back to netball, however, our sport will not look like it did before for a while longer. We understand it can be frustrating, especially seeing other sports appear to return at an accelerated rate, however, our sport must be judged on the nature of the game. We are higher risk than many other team sports and subsequently the return for our sport differs from outdoor contact sports.

The health and wellbeing of our members and participants of our sport is still the priority as we strive to unlock the next steps on the road map in a safe, phased and clear way.