Updated: 14 May 2020 T&RA updated statement
Published: 16 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: T&RA statement 11 May 2020

The absolute priority of everyone in Britain needs to be protecting the health of the nation, with a requirement to dramatically adjust our behaviour to help slow the spread of the disease, prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, and ultimately saving lives. The way everyone can help is by complying with the Government’s guidance and staying at home.

We are in an unprecedented period of national crisis and HMG has stated that all indoor leisure and sports facilities, including gyms must close until further notice. Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 23rd March,  all Tennis and Rackets should be closed, and coaching and activity should be put on hold with immediate effect. 

The T&RA is continuing to work with Government advice to help us achieve this, and establishing what further support can be provided to help all those impacted by this unprecedented situation.

The government have pledged to support small businesses and I would ask that you continue to refer to and follow the Government guidance for employers and businesses

I would also highlight the Community Emergency Fund which is open to clubs. This aims to deliver immediate funding to those most in need and builds on the success of similar previous funds. It is specifically targeted at organisations, including those not currently supported by Sport England, who have a role in supporting the nation to be active but who are experiencing short-term financial hardship or the ceasing of operations due to the impact of coronavirus. Organisations can apply for grants between £300 and £10,000.

Update Monday 11th May

Almost all activity ceased when HMG announced gyms should be closed (20 March), three days ahead of the lock-down announcement, and the T&RA made an announcement on the evening of 20 March.

Now we have all heard the announcement by HMG, although there remains the prospect self-determination, I have no choice but to advocate that the Tennis and Rackets communities must both abide (and be seen to abide) by the current guidance. 

HMG issued further FAQs on 11th May in relation to exercise and what is and isn't permitted. Specifically:

"As with before, the public cannot:

  • exercise in an indoor sports court, gym or leisure centre, or go swimming in a public pool."

This means that all Tennis clubs and Rackets courts should remain closed until further notice - this includes anyone wishing to engage in solo practice or members of the same household playing on an indoor court. The T&RA will continue to monitor Government guidance and will provide further information here as it arises.

Moving forward

Before there is any relaxation, this will depend on the government strategic markers being in place, now defined by the new COVID Alert states. Although outdoor sport will become possible from Wednesday (13th May), including lawn tennis, I am afraid this does not presently extend to indoor activity.

If we consider the science, being inside an enclosed space for one hour will almost certainly see some cross contamination of airborne particles; despite any two meter safe-distancing measures. Humans are constantly inhaling harmful particles which are mostly neutralised by our immune system, but only up to a threshold. The higher the intake, the greater the risk; more particles are released when we exert ourselves and even more again when either coughing or sneezing. A virus (such as COVID) takes hold when our system is overwhelmed, far more likely in an indoor space where particles are less readily dispersed by the atmosphere. For this reason I am suggesting players will need to take responsibility and exercise judgement when we eventually are able to start playing again. But nothing will be 100% risk free, even when a vaccine is finally developed and approved for use.

As and when we approach the time when indoor sport may be resumed (the earliest I can foresee is July, if the markers are satisfied), certain safety measures are being considered. The best professional advice I have at present is that the transmission of COVID via Tennis balls is by no means certain or proven. Social distancing should be achievable in Tennis singles; however, in the early days of any return, much of this will depend on players making their own decisions, including their tolerance of risk, to enable life to return to a semblance of normality. I am also suggesting the wearing of a glove on the non-racquet hand is a sensible precaution - even if only to stop you inadvertently touching your face. A strict surface cleaning regime must also be introduced. Finally, wearing some form of eye protection, aside from being a sensible precaution in NORMAL circumstances, would additionally serve to mitigate against the risk of an injury where third party assistance is required (club professional). 

Rackets (2 & 4 hand) and Tennis doubles (aside from family groups) may take longer to restart, with problematic social distances and more players in a smaller relative space.

More to follow once we see further guidelines from the government.

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