B.C. sports teams now able to compete in groups of 10 to 100 people
Soccer, volleyball, hockey and baseball teams can compete against each other if they're in the same cohort
Major B.C. sports associations say competition will be nearly back to normal as they prepare to move into Phase 3 of the province's reopening plan.
Soccer, volleyball, hockey and baseball teams will once again be able to compete against each other but will be limited to cohorts of between 10 and 100 people, depending on the sport.
Monday, viaSport — the government's agency for sports programs — laid out its Return to Sport Guidelines, which contain recommendations for how different types of sports can gradually add activities.
Kevin Berar, communications manager at Volleyball B.C., says volleyball will look especially different from Phase 2 with the Phase 3 loosening of restrictions.
"We didn't have any contact beforehand as far as the high fives, handshakes, blocking at the net, anything contact related," he said. "That's changing now, so we are allowing that as long as it's done within your cohort."
He says cohorts will be limited to 100 people and will include teams of similar ages and skill levels. The number of teams isn't restricted and a cohort could be made up of four teams, each with 25 players and staff.
The new guidelines rank each sport activity in terms of risk of COVID-19 transmission from lowest to highest based on amount of contact. Softball, baseball, and volleyball are all classified in "group B" of the guidelines and are allowed cohorts of up to 100 people.
Higher contact sports like soccer and hockey are in "group C" and are limited to cohorts of up to 50 people.
The B.C. Soccer Association says soccer cohorts of up to 50 people will start playing games on Sept. 7. Some private organizations don't have teams and focus on training and will be allowed to have 50 trainees at once.
However, the association notes that each municipality has its own safety precautions and limits on field capacity.
Softball and baseball associations feel like they have a particular advantage.
"We do have a couple of situations where there's brief interactions where close contact is possible, whether that be a hitter and the catcher at home plate or during plays at the bases," said David Laing, executive director of Baseball B.C.
"But we believe that because we're outside in those encounters that our athletes are very much safe."
If leagues want to change the makeup of cohorts, they'll have to wait 14 days before playing a new team. Berar says a break of a couple weeks is fairly typical in volleyball even in normal years.
"We're still not allowing, viaSports is not allowing, any interprovincial or international travel for tournaments."
Spectators will be allowed so long as they maintain physical distancing and remain within the facility's capacity.
Berar says up until now, beach volleyball benefited from slightly looser restrictions by virtue of being played outside, but going forward, both indoor and outdoor volleyball will follow the same guidelines.
- An earlier version of this story said volleyball cohorts would be limited to 50 people. In fact, the limit is 100 people which could be four teams, each with 25 players and staff.Aug 26, 2020 12:04 PM PT