Return to Play Updates - June 2020

June 08 2020

Vike runner pursued by flying Valkyrie
© Glenn Ivens

NZ Professional Rugby Returns This Weekend; NZ Community Rugby Starts June 20th; U SPORTS Cancels Team Sports Until January 2021; BC Sports Face Liability Hurdles

As we try to calculate when rugby might return in BC we'll take a look at what's happening around the world and closer to home.

On the positive side, New Zealand are way ahead of the pack, with good COVID-19 numbers and a national insurance that covers liability issues they're ready to roll. Professional rugby kicks off this weekend with Super Rugby Aotearoa and Community rugby kicks off June 20th with preseason warmups happening this weekend. The Super Rugby competition in NZ will be the first in the world to let the fans back in the stadiums. A couple of story links below.

World first: Super Rugby Aotearoa open to fans as New Zealand heads to Covid-19 alert level 1

Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa will be the first professional rugby competition in the world to have fans return en-masse in the Covid-19 era when the competition kicks off in Dunedin on Saturday.

Closer to home U SPORTS the Canadian University Sports body has announced that they are cancelling the fall term for team sports, so sports like Women's Rugby won't start competition until January 2021 at the earliest.

The announcement from U SPORTS can be viewed here and the one from CanWest can be viewed here.

UVic Vikes have extended that decision to sports not officially under the U SPORTS umbrella, "Vikes Athletics will extend the decision to cancel first term Canada West and U SPORTS competitions to the entire varsity and sport club programs including non-U SPORTS teams such as rowing and men's rugby. Student-athlete and teams will be permitted to train and engage in informal competition pending approvals from the appropriate authorities."

What constitutes "informal competition" remains to be seen.

It's also worth noting that Sports and Recreation have a different definition. Sport is defined as, "activity that involves a number of people doing a physical activity together in a structured way and is facilitated by a Provincial Sport Organization or Local Sport Organization". Recreation is defined as "freely chosen participation in physical, social, intellectual, creative and spiritual pursuits that enhance individual and community wellbeing." So structured rugby as a sport is a while away in BC, in January for U SPORTS teams, and we'll wait and see for BCRU clubs. Rugby as recreation however that is not structured or under the auspices of a sport organization is not a regulated activity, in other words, a pickup game of touch rugby among friends doesn't fall under the category of structured sports if it's not facilitated by a PSO, a LSO or one of their member clubs.

The big concern is liability insurance and that can be seen in other BC Sports that are managing Return to Play and are ahead of rugby in the process.

Field Hockey BC posted this information on what is holding up their Return to Play framework.

In anticipation of questions as to why the FHBC framework remains in draft format and pending formal approval, two fundamental hurdles remain:
1. The approval of junior and senior legal activity waiver templates
2. The provision for defense cost liability insurance coverage

BC Soccer provided this guidance to their member clubs, giving them the decision making option after following these guidelines.
For those Members and Affiliated Clubs that do want to offer soccer activity in accordance with the Canada Soccer approved BC Soccer Return to Play Phase 1 Plan - Recommendations and Guidelines, the following four mandatory steps must be completed by a Senior Board or Staff Member (signing officer is ideal):

1. Review BC Soccer’s Return to Play Plan Phase 1 – Recommendations and Guidelines and ViaSport’s Return to Sport Guidelines for B.C.
2. Fully complete Canada Soccer’s “Return to Soccer Assessment Tool” which requires the organization to commit to offer soccer activity under the terms in BC Soccer’s Return to Play Plan Phase 1 – Recommendations and Guidelines.
3. Pass a board motion supporting the soccer activity that the organization is choosing to offer under the terms.
4. Establish the training program(s) and offer the safest possible environment for all participants that choose to participate.

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