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How are the Covid-19 measures affecting sports construction projects?

Published in Sports Management 2020 issue 4
Construction projects are still allowed – as long as social distancing is adhered to
Construction projects are still allowed – as long as social distancing is adhered to

The UK government's measures to tackle the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic are having a huge impact on the way UK businesses operate. Only key workers – and those who can't do their jobs remotely – are allowed to travel to work. This means that a large number of those working across the sports and play construction industry find themselves discovering the wonders of homeworking.

Are sports construction projects still allowed?
So far, the UK government’s advice is that external construction projects are allowed to continue, but only if it is possible for contractors to comply with the official guidance on social distancing and the procedures for the safe operation of sites.

This is a very considerable challenge, both for the specialist work that takes place on-site to build and maintain sports and play facilities, as well as for the industry’s workforce, which travels to and from the various projects on which they are employed. 

Adding to the on-site challenges, the industry is also experiencing increasing difficulties in obtaining the materials and products which are essential to delivering sport and play projects. Those looking to build, redevelop or maintain their sports facilities should be aware that, as a result, many projects are currently being suspended. SAPCA's advice is that those, whose projects may be affected, should discuss their individual situation with the contractor (or contractors) that they have engaged.

But while the UK lockdown is resulting in some projects being put on hold, contractors remain open for business and many of them continue to run full operations working from home. It is a great opportunity, therefore, to discuss and develop future facility projects. 

Using this “down time” for project planning – and getting projects ready for the tender process – could give many a headstart once the lockdown ends. This is because there is likely to be a clamour to continue projects (and start new ones), once things begin to return to normal. 

During the coronavirus emergency, SAPCA will continue to be in close contact with sports councils, sports governing bodies, funding agencies and other key stakeholders to work together to produce and share helpful information and guidance for all those involved in developing and managing sports and play facilities. For this, please visit the Guides section of the SAPCA website: sapca.org.uk/guides/

Shutting down safely
For those that are facing the prospect of closing down a project site, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has developed a useful guide on temporary suspension of sites. The advice looks to ensure that all closures can be achieved as safely as possible, avoiding potential issues while the site is not active. 
The guidance is particularly pertinent to sports and play facility operators, as owners of sites have a legal duty of care to any visitors to their sites – even in the event of trespass. 

The document includes advice on how to come up with a structured plan to carry out a shut down – from analysing the emerging risks to the site and prioritising its critical functions to site safety and security. There is also guidance on dealing with any special considerations the site might require, relating to environmental issues. 

The main message is clear – even if a shut down needs to happen quickly due to Covid-19 issues, there should be a clear, structured plan for it. You can access the full document here.

What about maintenance?
As with construction work, the message from the government is that, for now – and as long as social distancing regulations are adhered to and due regard for health and safety is followed – essential ground maintenance work can still be carried out. This includes maintenance work at golf clubs, football clubs, cricket clubs, tennis clubs and other similar facilities. 

Things are, however, moving quickly in the current climate and guidance is constantly being amended. SAPCA will look to keep its members and its partners up-to-date with news from the government departments, as well as its various stakeholder organisations. 

For those looking for the latest information, there is a useful, dedicated Covid-19 section on the Sport England website, which provides updates on the situation. Information about how Sport England is working to support the sector can also be accessed through the website.

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