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Covid precautions.

Excitement has been building for the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season to start. Against all odds, 11 teams will play their first Superleague games this weekend at Production Park Studio 001 in Wakefield, and you may be wondering how it will all work?

From hand sanitiser and social distancing to temperature checks and testing, there are lots of wellbeing protocols in play to ensure netballers, officials and staff minimise the risk of COVID-19. So, while you’re cheering each team on, here’s what to expect from VNSL in a time of COVID…

Have changes been made to rules?

The games will be played under traditional netball rules (rather than the modified community rules) on court and, while VNSL matchday squads were capped at 10 players previously, this year each team can have a 12-person match day squad. The usual game of 15-minute quarters has been changed to 12 minutes, with quarter times and half time remaining at four minutes and 12 minutes due to the seasons busy game schedule.

One of the biggest changes, with player welfare in mind and due to back to back matches at the central venue, is that this season draws will be permitted and there will be no extra time to determine a winning team. Teams will get three points for a win, one point for a draw and no points for a loss.

Will masks be worn?

As we know, masks are a helpful barrier in stopping the spread of the virus. During the match, coaches and substitutes must always wear their mask. Players can only take their mask off when playing and must put them back on when they are subbed off (once their breathing has returned to normal). They are not required to put their masks on at quarter time, but they must at half-time, and when warming up on exercises bikes.

Masks must also be worn while travelling to the venue, and while moving around the venue (for example, while being escorted to changing rooms), as well as in post-match interviews.

What other measures are in place?

Social distancing will be adhered to off court by everyone (including court-side team seating), and to avoid too many people being in one area at one time, there will be designated entrances and exits, one-way systems, allocated team toilets and dressing rooms, and a ‘cool down court’ for players, as well as strict arrival and vacancy timings.

What about cleaning?

There will be hand sanitiser throughout the venue, and posts and balls will be sanitised/replaced after each quarter, as well as thorough cleaning of equipment and seats after each game. The venue will be cleaned before the next teams enter the venue.

How else are players and staff being kept safe?

Player and staff welfare is key, and numerous protocols are in place to keep them safe and well. These include completing opt-in forms and health declarations, Health and Safety online inductions, the use of private transport where possible (encouraged with free parking on site), temperature checks on arrival, and an isolation room in the event anyone feels unwell or displays symptoms. There will be a dedicated medical team overseeing the season and an appointed health and safety agency in place.

Will the players and staff be tested for COVID?

In order to lower the risk of COVID-19, a regular testing regime is in place for players and staff throughout the season. Before the season begins, players will have undertaken five rounds of once-a-week testing, then further testing will take place every Wednesday during the season for players and staff.

All players, as well as umpires, technical officials and staff will also be tested 24 hours before each game.

What happens if anyone gets a positive COVID test?

If anyone does receive a positive test, they must self-isolate for 10 days, and then follow a return to competition programme before returning to training or matches again.

All those that have been in contact in training or at matches with someone who gets a positive result must also isolate for 10 days. Therefore, if a player tests positive for COVID-19 and has been in recent close contact with the team (within 48 hours), their whole team will have to self-isolate for 10 days – this could mean a match is postponed and rescheduled later during the season, and there are further plans in place should this need to happen.

Will the game look or feel any different?

No high-fives or handshakes will be allowed during or after games by players.

However, for those who watched the incredible three-match test series between the Vitality Roses and the VNSL All Stars in January, you’ll have seen that while these protocols are necessary to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for our players, officials and staff, they do not stop or lessen the fantastic netball that’s on display. There are 114 games in the season, and we’re excited about every single one of them!

Make sure you’re following @NetballSL on Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for the VNSL Newsletter to stay up to date with news, tickets and transfers!

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