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Community sports clubs in NSW warned over apparent social-distancing complacency

Community sports clubs in NSW warned over apparent social-distancing complacency
July 13, 2020

In the wake of weekend reports of Sydney-based sports clubs and competitions ignoring social distancing, NSW acting Minister for Sport Geoff Lee has issued a reminder to community sports clubs to adhere to Coronavirus safety measures.

Despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases across Australia, images have been circulating of players and fans gathered in large groups, with NSW Police reportedly investigating concerns over a lack of social-distancing among a crowd attending  a rugby union match in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on Saturday.

Acting Minister Lee today advise "all NSW sports clubs and organisations must ensure they adhere to strict COVID safety plans to keep their players and the wider community safe.

"Complacency will be the biggest enemy for our state so please make sure everyone is practising hand hygiene and keeping socially distant where possible."

NSW Police were called to Eastern Suburbs Rugby Club on Saturday afternoon amid concerns that the crowd at a Shute Shield trial game against Sydney University were ignoring social-distancing. A subsequent NSW Police statement advised "(at) about 3.40pm yesterday (Saturday), police were called following concerns over physical distancing at a rugby game in Bellevue Hill.

"Officers from Eastern Suburbs Police Area Command are conducting inquiries. No further information available at this time."

Easts President John Murray defended the event on Sunday after images emerged of the crowd at the match, claiming the event was fully ticketed and was run entirely within COVID-19 restriction

Murray claimed that just 445 people attended the ticketed event, a number that he advised was decided on after “the area was measured and calculated to ensure each section was designated accordingly”.

Murray said organisers went “over and above” to comply with COVID-19 restrictions hiring double the number of security guards to move people on, used bollards to prevent crowds from standing near the fence, and divided bar, bathroom, and food facilities into four separate zones.

On Sunday, Indoor Sport NSW (ISNSW) in Sydney Olympic Park took to social media to post an image of a group of more than 100 young netball players huddled together for a photograph that appears to ignore social distancing requirements.

In response to inquiries, ISNSW Indoor Netball State Coordinator Shannon Timms said the venue followed "strict COVID guidelines" but would not comment on why the photo was taken with such a large group.

Timms wrote in an email to the Sydney Morning Herald “we are an industry that has been extremely affected by this COVID crisis with forced closure for over four months.”

Timms then asked who alerted the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age to the image, adding “whilst we appreciate the concern for all, they need not worry and should direct there (sic) energies in other directions possibly supporting people rather than going to the media.”

The 'Return to Sport' guidelines put together by Sport Australia state that all huddles, handshakes and high fives are off-limits for community sport for the foreseeable future.

Images: Spectators at the Eastern Suburbs Rugby Club appear to ignore social distancing requirements on Saturday (top) and young netballers appear to do the same on Sunday at Sydney Olympic Park (below).

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