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    COVID-19: Canada Soccer Outlines Return to Soccer Guidelines as Part of Safe Sport Roster

    On May 13, 2020, as restrictions have begun to ease relating to COVID-19, Canada Soccer has begun to put together a “Road Map” for its member organizations that they must follow with the “Return to Soccer Guidelines” before returning to the playing field.

    The leadership of Canada’s governing soccer body has based its guidelines from working in conjunction with Canada Soccer’s Sports Medicine Committee and in consultation with  federal, provincial, territorial and local public health authorities, outlining a “five-step” process including a checklist of weighted questions known as the “Return to Soccer Assessment Tool”, all for the purpose of determining preparedness to mitigate COVID-19 risks and implications upon the resumption of soccer and related activities.

    BC Soccer provided an update on Return to Play Phase 1 plan on May 13, 2020, as BC’s Health Authority began exploring the process of easing restrictions in the province and the government rolled out its Restart Plan, BC Soccer has been working hard on a return to play plan that satisfies current health restrictions.

    The Ontario Soccer website posted on the morning on May 20, 2020 announcing that it has opened the door for Limited training with five or less people.

    Then in the afternoon, Ontario Soccer had to release a clarification that Ontario Soccer was not lifting the suspension of organized sanctioned soccer activities, as amateur sport has not yet received permission from the relevant Province of Ontario Public Health Authorities and the National Governing Body (Canada Soccer) to do so in lifting the ban. It was an error on the interpretation of the government’s recent advisory (format of 1 coach and 4 players participating in skills development on soccer fields) which was in keeping with provincial guidelines.  What Ontario Soccer did provide though was a “ray of light” and give everyone a little bit of hope, as people are getting desperate for human interaction outside of their own homes as the pandemic continues to unfold.

    So what does this mean for the post-secondary fall soccer seasons in U-Sport and the CCAA?

    The answer as of right now: Who knows? Things are still up in the air.  With all of the provincial governing athletic bodies for sport, as well as in both U-Sport and the CCAA their AGM meetings this month via “virtual conferences”, have put the spotlight on all of the athletic administrators to determine what they are going to. Many of our sport professionals are sitting in a holding pattern every day trying to come up with contingency plans on what the season may look like based on so many mitigating factors, that are out of their control.  It is a tough position for all our leaders, as they really do not know.  They have tabled solutions, but it is all based on timing and budgets.

    We saw on the weekend from Germany that with proper protocols and execution, sport can be executed safely in a positive manner to give us the much needed interaction that we all require.

    We all know that this will pass, but it is just a question of when and how do we prepare for it.  Is it now? Is it a month from now? Two months, six months, sometime in 2021? Nobody is sure.  A number of our educational institutions across Canada have gone to a “Hybrid Model” for the current term with limited access to campus’ in the interest in public safety. But as time goes on, most institutions will have to execute their contingency plans and make decisions in early June to determine how things will unfold at each of their individual institutions in the fall to protect their revenue bases in order for them to survive.  If campuses are closed to only essential personnel, then for most schools this means that facilities are closed, then there will be no sports. 

    We have already seen this take place south of the boarder in the NCAA at all levels as “non-revenue generating sports” are being cut from budgets all over the country and in the case of the California Colleges Athletic Association, a suspension of ALL fall sports on May 15, 2020, setting the precedent for everyone else to follow.

    There are institutions here in Canada that are facing as much as a twenty percent decrease in their enrollment for the fall term.  That financial hit alone will be difficult for most institutions to absorb, making it very hard and cripple most athletic departments.  There are some institutions that were in financial trouble prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and this crisis has only accelerated their financial despair. 

    Contingency plans and their execution will all be based on the execution of a process in a safe and positive manner, so that we can eventually return to some form of “normal” but the landscape of post-secondary education is now changing, and this will definitely affect sport.

    How much now, we’ll have to wait and see.

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