Good Afternoon Everyone,
Firstly I trust that you and your families remain safe and well in these strange and often difficult times.
I am writing to you on behalf of the Rugby Management Committee to update you on the position surrounding training at the club. My purpose in doing so is to provide some background to why the decision was made to suspend training last week, to update you on the situation for this week and hopefully dispel some of the incorrect assumptions that may be doing the rounds.
Firstly I want to thank everyone for their amazing efforts that allowed us to re-commence training across the whole club three weeks ago. The initial task of drawing up risk assessments to cater for potentially 600 active rugby players across four different rugby sections was a huge undertaking that remains an ongoing challenge requiring constant attention and updating. The risk assessment is crucial for so many reasons from ensuring everything we do is done safely to also protecting the club against liability if the worse was to happen.
The adherence to the procedures and protocols was well observed and this was done in a spirit of responsibility and co-operation that was reassuring and something that we should all take pride in. I express my thanks to everyone involved.
It was therefore frustrating and disappointing that Preston became an area of intervention last week with the reintroduction of some local restrictions becoming necessary. This clearly came on the back of similar local lock-downs in adjoining areas, a number of which we have members across all sections living and working in.
As officers at the club we are required to ensure the club meets all of its obligations in terms of its Duty of Care. To expand on this, under our jurisdiction as the rugby officers at the club we are required to keep everyone within the rugby sections safe but also be seen to demonstrate robust and consistent management that assesses and manages any risk as it arises. Failure to do this could mean that the club has failed in its duty of care and become liable to sanction, the results of which could potentially be extremely serious for the clubs survival.
Whilst this is something we have to adhere to at all times, the situation around COVID 19 has taken these risks to even higher levels. By relation, we have an increased number of obligations to observe under our Duty of Care.
So whilst you would be correct to point out that under the current RFU and Government guidance we could continue to train even within the current lockdown, it has to be stressed that these are only for guidance and it is still down to the club to make its own decisions around training and ensuring that it is fulfilling its duty of care.
To also be clear, our jurisdiction only extends to those activities for which we are directly responsible. The AGP is owned and run by the RFU. External parties to PGRFC who use the AGP do not fall under our jurisdiction. However we still have to risk assess that third party use of the AGP as it forms part of our planning for how many people might be using our grounds at any time.
This is just one part of a very involved decision making process and one that we cannot afford to get wrong. It requires a huge degree of scenario planning. We then have to interpret this into policies backed up by clear and consistent communication that provides a simple set of procedures that we can apply across the club.
On this basis it was decided at short notice last Friday that due to the changing picture locally (itself something that the RFU highlighted that clubs had to take into account in their decision making processes) we had to take credible action to demonstrate we are continuing to fulfil our duty of care.
Please rest assured this decision was not taken lightly. I personally agonised over this during the course of Friday evening. The social and physical benefits of training has been evident across all of our rugby sections and having personally put in a huge amount of hours to prepare the club for a return to training (and yes I am a volunteer too), it was not easy to then take the message to the Rugby Committee that I felt we should pause training. My overarching concern throughout the whole return to play evaluation has been to ensure we all remain safe and that we protect the clubs future.
To that end, the release of today’s weekly update from Lancashire County Council did not make for positive reading. An increasing number of cases and the likelihood of further restrictions being brought into effect was not what any of us wanted to hear.
But on that basis, we have to respect that we have a role to play in this situation and the mobilising of potentially 600 rugby players plus the additional numbers of coaches, team managers and their families means that we are again faced with a credible test of our decision making process and how we ensure we fulfil our duty of care. It is against this background that we feel we are unable to lift the suspension of training for the coming seven days.
I would urge all rugby sections to support this decision and comply with the reasoning behind why we are taking this stance. If we were to continue training against this local background and the unfortunate situation of having a confirmed case arose, we would be heavily scrutinised for allowing that to have occurred when there was a clearly identifiable increased level of risk.
As we have seen across our own sport and that of rugby league in the last week, where one person has taken the virus into those team environments, the spread has been large and quick. We simply cannot take or be seen to take unnecessary risk at the current time.
Other sports have been able to return to a more “normal” format. Clearly this is not something we can control and what we can agree to under our sport does not stand comparison.
Please note that any section that organises to train away from the club in unauthorised sessions that are still clearly a PGRFC section training away from our risk assessed base, will only serve to damage our club and actually puts our stability at risk. This would be reckless in the extreme and could also see the club and the coaches responsible be asked to answer to the RFU.
We are determined to get everyone back training at the club as soon as possible. We are continuously reviewing the situation both in terms of the local lockdown and also the guidance around what form training could take. I am a rugby person, I want to see our youngsters, ladies and men’s sections all back at the club enjoying playing the game we all love. But together with the rest of the Rugby Committee, we will not compromise anyone’s safety or the club’s future to do this.
I hope this has explained how we are managing this difficult situation and that you will continue to support your Rugby Management. If you have any questions please speak with the head of your rugby section who will be happy to discuss any issues.
Head of Rugby Operations
On Behalf of the Rugby Management Committee PGRFC