Yesterday’s announcement of a roadmap for the easing of lockdown restrictions is very welcome news for our sport and enables our members, clubs, leagues and regions to prepare for the outdoor season with confidence.
The key first step in the Government’s route out of lockdown which has seen our play suspended since early January is no earlier than 29th March. Subject to later confirmation by the Government that this date will indeed apply, we intend to use once again our Government approved ‘Play Safe Guidelines’ enabling pétanque to played by adults and under 18s without limits on numbers as long as venues can fully respect our Guidelines.
In good time before 29th March we will review our Guidelines to see if there are any adjustments that need to be made and inform our members accordingly.
The timing of the easing of restrictions is very favourable for our sport as it coincides with the traditional start of our season. We recognise that while the majority of players will be very eager to start playing again, there will be also an amount of nervousness about returning to play.
The PE Board’s primary and overriding objective is to ensure that as many players as possible can enjoy a return to our sport as safely as possible. We believe very strongly in pétanque as an important recreational activity which contributes very positively to physical and mental health.
Pétanque is a non-contact outdoor sport and through being aware and careful, players can achieve both social distancing and the avoidance of touching shared surfaces or objects. The Government has stated that the airborne risk of COVID-19 transmission is much lower outdoors than inside, but this does not mean anyone should not continue with the practices we advise in our Guidelines.
Practical considerations for our clubs
There are practical considerations which our members need to bear in mind in terms of re-starting club and league activities:
- Firstly, the Government has stated that at the 29th March initial stage, people should continue to minimise travel wherever possible, and should not be staying away from home overnight. We do not believe that this advice prevents our members playing at their local club or in their local league.
- Secondly, our clubs will need to check with their venues with regard to the opening of toilet facilities from 29th March. During similar restrictions previously, although venues had to remain closed, toilets were allowed to open. It may be that venues will not be able to provide such facilities until the commencement of the next stage scheduled to be no earlier than 12th April when venues will be able to open for outdoor service.
Clearly our clubs should take steps to contact those responsible for running their venues to check on both opening and access to facilities like toilets.
We intend to facilitate as much national domestic competition as possible. The PE Board will review practical considerations such as the ability to stay overnight and the downgrading of advice to minimise travel. The third stage of the lessening of restrictions currently scheduled for no earlier than 17th May allows hotels to open as well as indoor hospitality, meaning clubhouses can open.
A lot of members will be keen to understand what is likely to happen with the Inter-Regional Championships, currently scheduled for early September.
The PE Board have been working with the newly revitalised Isle of Wight Tours who we are delighted to see back in operation after new investment. We are currently reviewing a contract with Pontins to host the Championships in Lowestoft. Further work is required here including a site visit and we will update as soon as we can.
There is nothing in the Government roadmap that would prevent the 2021 scheduled event taking place, but it is very important to remember that the target dates stated by the Government are not definite and are subject to review of key tests being met like the continued vaccine rollout, the effectiveness of vaccines, infection rates and the emergence of new variants of COVID-19.
We are currently reviewing the 2021 PE National Calendar and expect to make an announcement on this shortly so that members can plan accordingly.
We have already issued information on our conditions for international representation. We have recently been advised by our European Confederation that the Youth and Espoirs Triples European Championships originally scheduled for June will be postponed until later in the year.
The Government has stated that it is investigating a potential system where vaccinated individuals can travel internationally more freely. However, it has also said that this system is unlikely to come forward quickly.
We are very pleased to see so many of our members renewing their licences even prior to the announcement of the roadmap yesterday. Given the new confidence around a return to play we hope that many more members will renew. You can do this via our website by logging in to the LoveAdmin system.
At present, PE does not receive any external funding and the ability of our regions and national organisation to promote, run and develop our sport hinges almost uniquely on the support of our members through membership subscriptions. This support is greatly appreciated and vital for the sport of pétanque as a whole in terms of youth development, coaching, competitions and events organisation, support for our clubs, umpiring and international representation.
We look forward to a renewed and relaunched sport in 2021 and thank all of our members who have supported us during these very challenging times.