Purpose

In accordance with O. Reg. 82/20, O. Reg. 263/20 and O. Reg. 364/20 under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to covid 19) Act, 2020, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (OCMOH) has approved this Return-to-Play Framework for Professional and Elite Amateur Sports Leagues and Events.

This framework provides the minimum requirements to the organizers and operators of professional and elite amateur sport leagues and events in Ontario related to the development of return-to-play plans to reduce and manage the risk of covid 19.

The minimum requirements contained in this document outline covid 19 infection prevention and control measures, and other public health and workplace safety measures, specific to operating these leagues and events in Ontario.

The minimum requirements contained in this document are subject to change at the discretion of the Government of Ontario and may be updated from time to time.

This framework is not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or legal advice. In the event of any conflict between this framework and any applicable legislation, or regulations, or any applicable orders or directives issued by the Minister of Health or the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), the legislation, regulation, order or directive prevails.

The minimum requirements in this framework do not affect any applicable legislative or regulatory requirements related to health and safety such as those in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations or in any regulation under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to covid 19) Act, 2020, as examples.

Scope

Professional sport leagues and events

This framework applies to professional sport organizations participating in one of the following leagues or associations:

  • American Hockey League
  • Canadian Elite Basketball League
  • Canadian Football League
  • Canadian Premier League
  • Major League Baseball
  • Major League Soccer
  • NBA G League
  • National Basketball Association
  • National Hockey League
  • National Lacrosse League
  • National Women’s Hockey League
  • Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association
  • USL League 1

Elite Amateur Leagues and Events

This framework applies to elite amateur sport organizations participating in one of the following leagues:

  • Canadian Hockey League
  • Elite Baseball League of Ontario 18U Division
  • League 1 Ontario
  • Ontario Junior “A” Lacrosse League
  • Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association
  • Ontario Women’s Field Lacrosse U19 “A” League
  • Provincial Women’s Hockey League

International Single Sport Events

This framework applies to International Single Sport Events (ISSE) hosted by a National Sport Organization that is either funded by Sport Canada or recognized by the Canadian Olympic Committee or the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

Return-to-play plan requirements

Return-to-play plans must include detailed protocols for the operation of a professional or elite amateur sport league or event, which at a minimum must include the following elements.

Local Medical Officer of Health

Travel/quarantine

  • Where a league or event includes participants travelling to Canada from abroad, return-to-play plans must include protocols and procedures to support individuals travelling to Canada from abroad who must follow any requirements set out by the federal Quarantine Act or emergency orders made under that Act. This may include a mandatory quarantine or isolation period.
  • Exemptions to the federal Quarantine Act may only be made by the Government of Canada. All related requests or questions should be directed to pch.retourausport-returntosport.pch@canada.ca.
  • Return-to-play plans must require participants to minimize the number of individuals outside of their households that they encounter at least 14 days prior to participating in the sport league or event.
  • It is recommended that all athletes and participants who are required to be in close proximity (that is, less than two metres) to athletes on a frequent and extended basis observe a 7 day self-isolation period prior to participating in the planned sport league or event. Self-isolating means staying at home and avoiding contact with other people. Athletes should only leave their home or see other people for critical reasons (like a medical emergency).
  • During the seven day period prior to the start of the sport league or event, all athletes and participants who are required to be in close proximity to athletes on a frequent and extended basis during the conduct of the league or event (see cohort 1 below) must complete a covid 19 testing protocol, including undergoing of a Health Canada or U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized covid 19 laboratory-based PCR test on days 1, 3, 5 and 7. These individuals may be able to start their participation in the sport league or event on day 8, if all such tests are negative and the individual is asymptomatic.

Cohorts

  • Return-to-play plans must identify cohorts of individuals based on the risk of covid 19 transmission, who are required to be in close contact with athletes and restricted areas (for example, locker rooms, fields of play). At a minimum, cohorts should include:
    • cohort 1: athletes and other participants who are required to be in close proximity to athletes on a frequent and extended basis (for example, coaches, trainers, referees)
    • cohort 2: participants with access to restricted areas who are required to be in close contact with athletes less frequently and for shorter durations (for example, event executives, locker room attendants, groundskeeper, anyone with access to the field of play)
    • cohort 3: individuals who are not required to be in close proximity to athletes, or other participants in close proximity to athletes, and who do not require access to restricted areas (for example, public relations personnel, media, business support staff, scouts)
  • Cohort 1 athletes and other participants are only permitted to practice or train together during a mandatory quarantine period if:
    • they have received an exemption to the federal Quarantine Act from the Government of Canada; and
    • they have completed a 7 day covid 19 testing protocol.
  • Cohorts must be provided credentials to assist in keeping cohorts separated. Lists and contact information for individuals in a cohort must also be maintained.
  • Protocols and requirements to limit the risk of covid 19 transmission must be made specific to the needs and activities of the identified cohorts, such as physical distancing measures, face covering/mask wearing requirements, and covid 19 testing frequency, as examples.
  • Interactions between cohorts must be as limited as possible.
  • Cohorts must include as few individuals as possible.

Testing and screening

  • Return-to-play plans must include a covid 19 testing and screening protocol.
  • The return-to-play plan must include measures to protect the privacy and security of personal health information.
  • COVID-19 testing conducted in Ontario must be administered by a private service provider to limit the impact of sport event testing on the health system.
  • Ongoing covid 19 testing must be performed at a frequency proportional to the identified risk of transmission among athletes and participants in a particular cohort. At a minimum, the testing protocol must include:
    • cohort 1: every-other-day laboratory-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for the duration of the sport league or event.
    • cohort 2: a negative rapid antigen test result within 48 hours prior to any contact with an individual in cohort 1 or accessing a restricted area for the duration of the sport league or event.
  • All sport league or event athletes and participants must complete daily covid 19 screening for the duration of league or event. Screening may include questionnaires and temperature checks, as examples.
  • A record of all screening activities must be maintained. For example, the collection of all questionnaires, a log of all temperature checks or barcoded accreditation to confirm which participants have been screened and are on site at a particular venue at any given time. Retention to be based on organizational policies.
  • Any athlete or participant who demonstrates symptoms of covid 19 or who tests positive for covid 19 must immediately self-isolate and must seek the attention of a physician or other medical professional.
  • Any athlete or participant who demonstrates symptoms of covid 19 must receive a negative laboratory-based PCR test result and be asymptomatic prior to returning to participate in the sport league or event.
  • Any athlete or participant who tests positive for covid 19 is a case, and case management, including clearance, is to be performed by the local public health unit. At a minimum, any athlete or participant who tests positive for covid 19 must not participate in the sport league or event for a minimum of 10 days and be asymptomatic prior to returning to participate.
  • Any person who was in contact with an athlete or participant who tests positive for covid 19 must contact the local public health unit and follow public health measures which likely requires 14 days of isolation and clearance by the local public health unit.
  • Participants who are non-compliant with the covid 19 testing and screening protocols must not be permitted to participate in the sport league or event in any capacity.

Individual control measures

Facilities/venues

  • Return-to-play plans must limit the number of facilities and venues required to deliver the sport league or event.
  • Facilities for sport leagues or events should be dedicated to a single use whenever possible.
  • Cohort 1 and 2 individuals must not occupy the same areas of facilities at the same time as members of the public.
  • Individual athletes or teams should have their own dedicated spaces or facilities, such as those for workouts, dressing, training and practice, as examples.
  • Only cohort 1 athletes and participants are permitted to access medical services in the facilities, such as those for diagnostic imaging, dental, or therapy, as examples.
  • If any outside medical professionals who are not included as part of an identified cohort are needed, appropriate personal protective equipment measures and other public health precautions must be taken.
  • Sport event organizers and operators must minimize the time period during which any participants are required to be on-site at any particular facility or venue.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Transportation

  • Return-to-play plans must include a travel protocol that is in adherence to local public health orders.
  • Travel groups must use dedicated transportation to and from facilities and venues whenever possible and use of public transportation is prohibited (including taxis and ride share services).
  • Athletes and other participants are permitted to use their personal vehicles. If a cohort must be divided for ground transportation, each vehicle must transport only those who are part of the same cohort.
  • Physically distanced seating protocols and procedures must be based on the type of vehicle used.
  • Vehicles must be cleaned and disinfected as regularly as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition, and ideally after each trip.
  • Face coverings/masks must be required in all vehicles, and public health safety measures such as hand washing must be required before and after each trip. This includes personal vehicles when used by more than one athlete or participant.
  • Vehicle operators or other essential ground transportation personnel who come into contact with individuals participating in the sport league or event must adhere to the testing and screening protocol based on their relative risk and identified cohort.

Accommodations

  • Return-to-play plans that require the use of hotels or other accommodations should identify dedicated hotels and other accommodations for sport event participants wherever possible.
  • Sport leagues and events should use a single hotel or other accommodation for the league or event to promote consistent application of the return-to-play plan.
  • Event participants are permitted to stay at their own personal residence. However, billeting with members of the public is not be permitted.
  • Athletes and participants in cohort 1 who stay at a hotel or other accommodation must be assigned the use of a restricted area of the accommodations (for example, dedicated floors, meeting spaces), and must be assigned a room with no more than double occupancy, unless all occupants are part of the same household.
  • Where there is more than one occupant of a room, they must be from the same cohort.
  • If staying at a hotel or other accommodation, athletes and other participants of the event or league must not engage in close contact or interactions with individuals from the public, including friends or family who are not part of their household.
  • Accommodation staff interactions with sport league or event participants must be limited to reduce the risk of covid 19 transmission.

Food and beverage

Staff and volunteers

  • Return-to-play plans must include a staff and volunteer protocol that involves the participation of as few people as possible.
  • Staff/volunteers must only be permitted to attend events to fulfil a specific role and must be required to leave the premises once their duties are complete.
  • All staff and volunteers required for the delivery of the sport event must adhere to the testing and screening protocol based on their relative risk and identified cohort.
  • All staff and volunteers must receive training prior to their participation in the sport league or event on the return-to-play plan as it relates to their role in delivering the sport league or event.
  • Staff and volunteers must be provided personal protective kits, which may include items like disposable tissues and tissue disposal bags, face coverings/masks, cleaning and disinfecting tips cards, and alcohol-based hand wipes or sanitizer, as examples.
  • Staff and volunteers must practice physical distancing, wear face coverings/masks and be required to follow any other measures consistent with advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials in accordance with requirements of applicable regulations under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to covid 19) Act, 2020 (that is, O. Reg. 82/20, O. Reg. 263/20 or O. Reg. 364/20).

Media and broadcast

  • If applicable, return-to-play plans must include a media and broadcast protocol that only permits essential media personnel attend a sport event, and only for the period during which they are performing their role.
  • Media must not be within two metres of athletes, or individuals who are regularly in close proximity to athletes and must not have access to restricted areas.
  • Protocols and requirements for media must be made specific to the nature of the media required, such as considerations related to radio or television, to limit the risk of covid 19 transmission.
  • Media personnel must be grouped in a separate cohort for the duration of the sport event.
  • Special credentials to assist with cohort controls must be provided to assist in limiting media personnel access to certain areas of the facilities or venue in the interest of reducing the risk of covid 19 transmission.
  • All interviews must follow physical distancing rules or require that personal protective equipment like face coverings/masks or barriers be in place.
  • Media attending the sport event must adhere to the testing and screening protocol based on their relative risk and identified cohort.

Practice and training

  • Practice and training sessions must not be open to the public.
  • Practice and training must only take place once participants have undergone covid 19 testing and screening. It is recommended that participants also observe a self-isolation period.
  • Individual athletes or teams should have their own dedicated spaces or facilities for practice and training.
  • The sharing of equipment used for practice and training should be limited, including not sharing high-touch sport equipment.
  • Return to play plans must have protocols for the cleaning and disinfecting of practice and training facilities that adhere to the requirements of the applicable regulation under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to covid 19) Act, 2020 (that is, O. Reg. 82/20, O. Reg. 263/20 or O. Reg. 364/20).

Competition

  • Competition must only take place once all participants have undergone the required covid 19 testing and screening. It is recommended that participants also observe a self-isolation period.
  • Events must be limited to as few competition venues or facilities as possible.
  • All participants in the competition portion of an event (for example, game, match, race or other contest) must be provided with competition specific protocols and requirements prior to the event. These may include for example, protocols and requirements for interactions between teams or athletes and venue or facility entrance and exit procedures, as examples.
  • Equipment and facilities used for competition which is shared, such as team benches, nets, and dressing rooms, as examples, must be cleaned and disinfected in accordance with the requirements of the applicable regulation under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to covid 19) Act, 2020 (that is, O. Reg. 82/20, O. Reg. 263/20 or O. Reg. 364/20).

Education and awareness

  • The organizer or operator of a league or event must inform all participants of the return-to-play plan and their individual obligations to comply with the protocols.

Compliance/enforcement

  • The organizer or operator of a league or event must have personnel dedicated for compliance and enforcement to ensure all participants adhere to protocols included in the return-to-play plan.

Spectators

Updated: September 16, 2021
Published: June 12, 2021