Health chief expects lengthy process before sport returns

Jason Leitch's comments come as SFA boss Ian Maxwell believes a return to action in August is likely.

Health chief expects lengthy process before sport returns /SNSGroup

Scottish Government health official Jason Leitch has warned that professional sport will have to go through a number of stages before a return to competitive action.

His comments come as Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell believes a return to action in August is likely.

A detailed route out of lockdown was published this week which stated that sports such as golf, angling and bowls would start to come back from May 28 with a return of professional sport to come in phase two.

With the restrictions currently reviewed every three weeks that timeline has given sports fans hopes but Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, warned that no dates had been attached to the phases.

“They may be three weeks apart if everything goes well, but they may be six weeks apart. It might go backwards a little bit, it might not be everything that happens in phase two that we said,” he added on BBC Radio Scotland’s Off The Ball on Saturday.

“In phase two, when we say professional sports could return, what we mean there is that each of the big sports in particular, the Olympic sports and rugby and football, we have been in conversation with them already. 

“They have five/six-step plans about what will mean to come back, starting with individual training outside, then group training outside, and it ramps up.

“We would expect that process to begin to happen in phase two. So that’s still quite a long way from a competitive professional game, which would be at the end of those five steps for each of those sports.

“And that’s when you would begin to think about phase three, could you have for instance a closed-door event, or could you have a small crowd to a golf event, or could you have a socially-distanced crowd to a tennis event?

“We will have to answer those questions as and when we reach those moments.

“But the professional sports are beginning to get ready for that phase two, which will be the beginning of their major training. We have been speaking to the Murrayfield and Hampden people about how that might start to happen.”

Leitch added: “What we did the week past was start to talk about what will happen and then there will be more specific stuff comes out this week in time for Thursday/Friday to actually make the change.”

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell believes a return to action in August is likely.

Some previous predictions from within the Scottish football authorities had signalled September/October as a realistic return date, but Maxwell is optimistic ahead of a meeting with the Government on Friday.

“I think it is likely that we will see football in August,” Maxwell said. 

“We are seeing it in countries across Europe.

“I think it is definitely achievable, the plans we are putting in place are comprehensive.

“We have to make sure we are giving Government comfort that we can do it in a manner that keeps the players, the staff, everybody involved in the game safe, and I’m sure we can do that.”