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Hockey will be left counting high cost of new measures

 

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The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has published a comprehensive list of guidelines to assist local and national governing bodies as they prepare their return-to-train and play protocols from schools to elite level across the globe. (stock photo)

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has published a comprehensive list of guidelines to assist local and national governing bodies as they prepare their return-to-train and play protocols from schools to elite level across the globe. (stock photo)

©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has published a comprehensive list of guidelines to assist local and national governing bodies as they prepare their return-to-train and play protocols from schools to elite level across the globe. (stock photo)

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has published a comprehensive list of guidelines to assist local and national governing bodies as they prepare their return-to-train and play protocols from schools to elite level across the globe.

Some of the recommended measures will have financial implications for clubs on both sides of the border in Ireland with the health and safety of all participants obviously of paramount importance.

With the Covid-19 pandemic at various stages across the world, the FIH have not put a time frame on any of the protocols as governing bodies must obviously adhere strictly to their respective governments' lockdown easing measures which will differ from country to country.

Part of the FIH document reads: "These are very early days when it comes to a return to action but, within its guidance, FIH has produced a five stage process showing the route back to something approaching normality.

"This starts, as has been seen in the Netherlands and Belgium, with a return to carefully managed training, still with social distancing measures in place.

"The next stage will be a resumption of regional competition, followed by local travel between neighbouring nations. Trans-continental competition will follow and, finally, once a vaccine is in place, it is hoped there will be a return to normal (international) competition."

The situation is more complicated in Ireland due to the fact hockey is played and administered on an all-island basis.

The blue riband competition, the EY Irish Hockey League, is a case in point, with five Ulster men's and women's teams regularly travelling across the border to take part.

With differing time frames for a return to sport in the Republic and no specific dates in the NI Executive's five steps to lockdown easing, the start of the new IHL season, normally in September, is likely to be put back.

The FIH added: "Hockey is seen as a higher risk activity and so is subject to higher levels of control and restriction."

Some of the measures recommended include disinfection of the 'entire accessible areas' for a training session, hockey balls and other equipment along with 'consistent and continuous (coronavirus) screening/testing' all of which will prove an additional financial burden on clubs.

The first tentative step back will be training for small groups, who must exercise strict social distancing, before a return-to-play can even be considered.

Belfast Telegraph