While the return to playing sports in Ireland has been welcomed, everyone is conscious of the need to minimize the risk of COVID19 spreading in a sports environment.  For Sports Clubs and Officials there is the additional responsibility of ensuring special measures and procedures are in place to minimize that risk.

What can a sports club do to minimize risk?

Every club has a “duty of care” to everyone attending at their grounds. This means that a club must do all that is reasonably possible to ensure that they will be safe. If an act or omission causes harm to a person which was “reasonably foreseeable”, that person could potentially take a claim against a club seeking damages for the harm caused.

It is therefore essential that all sporting clubs comply with the roadmap set out by each sport’s governing body. Firstly, a committee should be set up within the club to oversee the implementation of the protective measures. The duties of this committee should include the appointment of Covid supervisors, the ordering of PPE, hand sanitizers etc., the drafting of club communications which clearly explain the new procedures regarding Covid 19 (to be circulated through social media, club notes etc.) and the erection of signage on grounds advising members/visitors to adhere to the guidelines.

Clubs must also ensure that records are kept of all members/visitors present on the grounds so that contact tracing can take place if necessary. It is the duty of the Covid Supervisor/Compliance Officer/Covid-19 Committee (depending on the sport) to record this information. The GAA for example have implemented an easy to use “Return to Play” app on which each player/parent/guardian can, in advance of the training session or match, confirm their health status and confirm whether they are attending the session. The said records should be kept for the advised period of time after the session (check the governing body’s guidelines regarding the period) and thereafter be destroyed to comply with Data Protection Regulations.

With regard to the general club administration duties, depending on the advice of the sport’s governing body, all meetings should take place remotely where at all possible (i.e. through the use of Zoom, Microsoft Teams or another similar platform). If meetings are necessary, they should be held in full compliance with HSE/Public Health advice.

How to Manage your club’s exposure to risk

All clubs should ensure that:

  • All club members and visitors participating in the sport or attending at training session/matches have completed a self-assessed health declaration;
  • Appropriate signs are erected at club grounds;
  • Hand sanitization stations are available at entry to the grounds;
  • HSE and Government advice is implemented;
  • The governing body’s guidelines are implemented;
  • They keep up to date with the relevant guidelines and review/update the procedures regularly.

If any of the guidelines are breached, the Covid Supervisor/Compliance Officer/Covid-19 Committee should immediately review the breach and notify the club officers. Any such breach should be taken extremely seriously by the Club Officers and appropriate action should be taken immediately. Most public liability insurance policies will refuse to indemnify a club where the liability occurs as a result of a deliberate act or omission of the club, having regard to the nature and circumstances of the act or omission. Therefore, if a club is aware of a breach of any of the protocols and does nothing to remedy that breach, an insurer may refuse to indemnify if that breach causes harm to any individual.

What should a club do in the event of a suspected Covid-19 case?

If someone within a club suspects they may have contracted Covid-19, the first step that person should take is to immediately contact their GP. The individual should not attend any further club activities until they have done so. That person’s GP will decide whether it is necessary for the person to be tested or not. Public Health will then take over and if the test result is negative, that person can return to training. If that person’s test returns positive, public health will assess that person’s movements and decide whether his or her teammates are considered close contacts or casual contacts.

If a club deems it necessary and in consultation with the governing body’s guidelines, the club should suspend all activities until it is safe to recommence.

A club should also consider reporting any incidence of Covid 19 which could possibly be traced back to the club to its insurer, as a failure to do so might result in the insurer refusing to indemnify the club against any claim taken by an injured party.

If you have any concerns or queries about the issues mentioned here please contact David Kelly, Litigation Department at Callan Tansey dkelly@callantansey.ie.