News & Blog

December 2nd Last Minute DCMS Updates

This evening (1st December) a very large association posted an update to Facebook that turned out to be erroneous regarding the prohibition of adults training in martial arts.

We understand how hard the guidance is to interpret at the moment and know full-well the information was shared with the best intentions to mind. Nonetheless, given widespread panic and plenty of ‘screengrabs’ from clubs trying to share the news, we thought on the eve of a return to grassroots martial arts, a quick recap on the updated guidance would help every sleep a little easier this evening. It’s more important than ever that clubs understand the guidance in detail from the official .GOV source, so grab a cup of tea and settle in for a somewhat enduring read.

 

What’s changed, and why the panic?

A very well known organisation (whom we obviously won’t be naming, as it was an honest mistake) posted on social media this evening that adult classes could not return in England from 2nd December. This is incorrect but was posted in best faith. Unfortunately by the time it was corrected, a number of clubs had already communicated to their members that adult classes could not continue and widespread panic had very much permeated a number of Facebook groups.

In reality, nothing has changed materially since our last update but additional depth has been added by DCMS to guidance on Tier systems, especially surrounding combat sports. Whilst any clarity on martial arts is welcome, the proverbial ‘old boy’s club’ of well funded organisations dictating who can and can’t return, without any regard for hundreds of unrepresented disciplines causes us obvious concern.

 

So can adults (18+) train?

Yes, they can in Tier 1 and 2. In Tier 3 only children’s classes (under 18) may resume. The guidance states this very clearly;

Participants should follow the guidance below and adhere to social distancing when not actively participating (e.g. during breaks in play, or when awaiting substitutions).

What this meansIn tier 1 areas: organised indoor team sport can only take place in groups of up to 6 people (or larger groups if all from the same household or support bubble). Other organised indoor sport, including indoor exercise classes, personal training and sport coaching, can continue to take place with larger numbers present, provided that participants are in separate groups of up to 6 people which do not mix with other groups. This includes contact combat sports, but contact between participants is limited to pad work only.

In tier 2 areas: organised indoor sport (including team and individual sport, personal training and exercise classes), can only take place where there is no mixing between households. This means that people from the same household or support bubble can take part in sport or physical activity together. Individuals or separate households (or support bubbles) can participate in a single indoor sport activity (such as an exercise class) if they can stay separate and distinct from those from other households, and avoid physical contact and proximity (whether deliberate or inadvertent). Contact combat sports are not permitted.

In tier 3 areas: people should not take part in any indoor sport or physical activity with people from outside their household. This includes indoor team and individual sports, training sessions and exercise classes. Gyms and sport facilities will remain open, but group activities are not permitted (unless the group consists of a single household or bubble). Contact combat sports are not permitted.

As we addressed in an earlier post, the rule of 6 doesn’t apply to the class itself if groups are not permitted to attend, leave or socialise in such sizes. Clubs will of course need to ensure there is no social mixing, with social distancing and all other hygiene measures in place at all times. Whilst the rule of 6 doesn’t apply to organised sport in the same way it does to social settings, you do still have a very real responsibility to ensure to the best of your ability that this rule is being followed before, after and during classes.

 

Has martial arts been banned?

No, although both Sport England and DCMS are doing little to assist in our opinion. We’ve reached out to them numerous times over many months – including through support with our MP – all to no effect. Let’s break down the guidance, and try to make sense of this. There is conflicting information and yet again, the definitions seem to contradict one-another so you will want to make sure you are fully availed of the latest guidance.

Let’s start with the following official advice. This is in relation to specifying that only those with approved Return To Play policy from DCMS can return;

 

Who can submit a guidance document?

Each contact combat sport may only have a single guidance document. Commercial providers of contact combat sports must ensure that their clubs are following the guidance issued by the relevant body for that sport. Each guidance document should include proposals for all four phases of the return to contact combat sport.

Recognised national governing bodies

Contact combat sports which have a national governing body recognised by Sport England will be allowed to submit guidance for government review. The NGB should submit their action plan and relevant guidance to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) sportsCOVID19@dcms.gov.uk which will confirm receipt. The documents will be reviewed by DCMS, which will confirm receipt. The documents will be reviewed by DCMS, which will determine whether the proposals adequately control risk and are consistent with government guidance and wider public health restrictions. Some sports (particularly those which involve higher-risk activities) will also need to be confirmed by Public Health England.

Until your sport has been approved, your sport should not take place and your website should clearly set out that people should not participate in the sport.

Once DCMS has confirmed that the sport has been approved, the national governing body will be linked at the bottom of [linked] page. You should publish your guidance on your website so that your sport can resume safely.

 

The guidance then expands further, to state the following regarding what is permitted in each Tier. This gives us reason to believe the above reference to sports not taking place is in reference to the contact element of that particular sport – not a non-contact (Phase 0) recreational (but organised) class;

  • Phase 0 (non-contact, socially distanced activity only) – tier 2 and tier 3 areas
  • Phase 1 (return to equipment training) – tier 1 areas
  • Phase 2 (return to contact training) – not currently permitted
  • Phase 3 (return to competition) – not currently permitted

There is additional guidance for some groups:

  • People with disabilities are exempt from gathering limits for organised indoor sport, so can participate in any number, but must follow the appropriate activity guidance for their tier. This includes any following the rules for contact activity within the sport, but other physical contact with others is still permitted in all phases where it is required (e.g. providing assistance to a person with disabilities to enable them to participate).
  • People participating in sport for educational purposes are exempt from gathering limits, but must follow the appropriate group sizes set out in the guidance below for each phase. Contact activity can be permitted where it is necessary for educational purposes. This exemption only applies to curriculum sport (such as a student studying sport at further or higher education, where a contact combat sport is part of their programme of activity) and high-risk activity such as physical contact is only permitted where it is strictly necessary for educational purposes.
  • Supervised activities (including sport and physical activity) for under-18s are also exempt, but must follow the appropriate group sizes set out in the guidance below for each phase. Each sport should set out in their guidance appropriate limits to contact and competition activity to ensure that is appropriately aligned with the wider position for their sport’s activity.

 

We have a real issue in the UK in that only those NGBs recognised by Sport England – of which there are none currently on the approved list – are being engaged by DCMS. This is leaving an enormous amount of disciplines, styles and clubs completely in the dark. In our opinion, the ‘old boys club’ will benefit as usual from funding and wider support available leaving smaller clubs and independent associations ‘in the dark’. This is completely unacceptable, immoral and dangerous as it will only serve to push clubs further underground.

The guidance for styles and disciplines without a ‘recognised’ NGB is as follows;

Sports which do not have a recognised governing body

Sports which do not have a recognised national governing body can still only submit one document for the relevant sport. If you are a national governing body which is not recognised by Sport England, you will need to provide further details on the landscape of your sport and how you have worked with other bodies to create a single plan for the sport. This information should be submitted to Sport England a who will support you to develop a sport-specific action plan.

A major issue is the failure of indepedent organisations to work together for the common good of the disciplines they represent. Given BMABA have in-excess of 30,000 members and represent 150 disciplines, the lack of even an acknowledgement to our countless emails is far from encouraging but we will continue to persist in our efforts to open the door to some form of official representation for styles not formally recognised elsewhere.

 

What do the current Tiers mean for my club and what’s permitted?

This is important – so please don’t skip this part. Read the guidance fully as it will be more important than ever that you understand this. The guidance covers both moving between phases, and the different Tiers (phases);

 

Moving between phases

DCMS will determine, in conjunction with public health officials and Sport England, when contact combat sports can move between phases. This will be reviewed every 4 weeks.

Each phase is dependent on successful completion and evaluation of the previous phase not having led to an increase in cases within the participant groups. Contact combat sports should only allow activities within the relevant phase to take place.

Phase 0: non-contact socially distanced activity (tier 2 and tier 3 areas)

At Phase 0, contact combat sports may resume non-contact training. This means that they should only train individually and there should be no activity with others, including with equipment (such as pad work). Clubs, providers and participants must adhere to legal gathering limits, social distancing guidelines and venue requirements, as set out in government guidelines.

Phase 1: return to equipment training (tier 1 area)

At Phase 1, contact combat sports can resume contact training. They can train with others and do not have to maintain 2m social distance. This is solely for the use of training with handheld and wearable equipment (such as pad work), and during this phase there should be no direct personal contact or contact with clothing. Sports should provide guidance on whether (and what type of) personal protective equipment (PPE) is appropriate for individuals holding/wearing contact equipment.

Training which involves contact should take place within ‘training bubbles’, in accordance with the local restriction tier for the club’s region. For example, in a tier 1 area, a participant could be part of a training bubble of up to 6 people from different households, who could train together provided they do not mix with participants from other bubbles. In a tier 2 area, indoor sport would only be able to take place where there is no mixing between households, so participants could only be in a training bubble with people from their household or support bubble. However contact combat sports are not currently permitted in tier 2 or tier 3 areas.

Individuals may only be part of a single bubble at an individual club/gym. Individuals may not be part of multiple bubbles at the same or at different venues (for example a coach may not train with a bubble of similarly experienced participants and then become a coach for a less experienced group; a children’s instructor may not coach more than one group of children, even on separate days). Coaches or participants holding/wearing the equipment are considered part of the bubble.

Coaches or officials who operate socially distanced from bubbles and are not holding/wearing equipment can operate across bubbles or multiple gyms. However, even when socially distanced, coaches or officials may wish to limit the number of bubbles or facilities they work with to limit exposure, and should make clear to facility operators if they work across multiple venues. Where possible, socially distanced training should be maintained for all participants.

For under-18s and where the activity is for educational purposes (e.g. students studying sport at Further or Higher Education), the training bubble may be up to 15 participants. Participants in a training bubble should not mix with others in different bubbles, before, during or after the training activity.

Phase 2: return to contact training (not currently permitted)

At Phase 2, contact combat sports may resume contact training which includes direct physical contact between participants.

Training which involves contact should take place within ‘training bubbles’, in accordance with the local restriction tier for the club’s region. For example, in a tier 1 area, a participant could be part of a training bubble up to 6 people from different households, who could train together provided they do not mix with participants from other bubbles. In a tier 2 area, indoor sport can only take place where there is no mixing between households, so participants could only be in a training bubble with people from their household or support bubble.

Individuals may only be part of a single bubble at an individual club/gym. Individuals may not be part of multiple bubbles at the same or at different venues (for example a coach may not train with a bubble of similarly experienced participants and then become a coach for a less experienced group; a children’s instructor may not coach more than one group of children, even on separate days). Coaches or participants holding/wearing the equipment are considered part of the bubble.

Coaches or officials who operate socially distanced from bubbles and are not holding/wearing equipment can operate across bubbles or multiple gyms. However, even when socially distanced, coaches or officials may wish to limit the number of bubbles or facilities they work with to limit exposure, and should make clear to facility operators if they work across multiple venues. Where possible socially distanced training should be maintained for all participants.

For under-18s and where the activity is for educational purposes (e.g. students studying sport at Further or Higher Education), the training bubble may be up to 15 participants. Participants in a training bubble should not mix with others in different bubbles, before, during or after the training activity.

Phase 3: return to competition (not currently permitted)

At Phase 3, contact combat sports may resume competition between participants.

The provision of competition, including the number of participants permitted to take part, should be determined in accordance with the local restriction tiers, adhering to legal gathering limits, and dependent on venue capacity (see guidance above on ventilation and venue capacity). For under-18s and where the sport is for educational purposes, up to 15 people may engage in contact combat sports competition. Participants may not mix with other participants, before, during and after the event.

The number of participants set out in legal gathering limits does not include coaches, officials and others attending for work purposes (e.g. event staff) but these numbers must be minimised. Sports should provide guidance on what PPE is appropriate for coaches or instructors.

Competition activities in Phase 3 should be organised with a minimum 2-week break between Phase 3 activities. Phase 1 and 2 activities may continue during this time. Individual sports’ action plans should set out clearly who is responsible for adhering to measures and maintaining records of Phase 3 activities.

 

Realistically, with exception of those in Tier 1 areas, this doesn’t alter the latest position on non-contact martial arts sessions being permitted subject to absolutely no contact and the usual social distancing measures being strictly adhered to. This extra detail does help us all understand where each phase will take us in terms of what is and isn’t permitted.

It’s possible additional analysis is required to fully qualify this latest guidance and BMABA are continuing to work with the Sport & Recreation Alliance (of whom we have been a member for many years) and other policy experts to fully understand any subsequent updates. Why this detail would be shared on the eve of martial arts resuming is, frankly, beyond us. At this stage we believe the regulations permit strictly non-contact, socially distanced martial arts in all Tiers, with exception of Adult Classes in Tier 3. As the months roll on we hope to see more clubs and instructors being classified within a Tier 1 region which will atleast permit padwork and other non-body contact partner work. We will also continue our relentless efforts to engage DCMS with a view to providing a ‘safe-haven’ for many disciplines without official representation.

As always, the guidance is fast moving with constant changes emerging but we will take the latest update with a (very limited) ray of hope that it paints a precursor to ‘the beginning of the end’ for 2020’s impact on our industry. More updates will follow and as always, we share these first on Social Media so be sure to follow us using the links below.

 

 

 

 

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