England Touch blasts out of Covid-19 hibernation

Sept. 9, 2021 @ 0:00 UTC

England Touch Association is back in full swing with test matches underway against other Home Nations after using the time in lockdown to plan for the future.

The England Touch Association (ETA) has responded to the easing of Covid-19 restrictions by implementing a busy schedule of events and activities. This dynamic full steam ahead approach has been led by ETA CEO Chris Simon.  

“We are about to deliver our men’s and women’s series over four weekends and two rounds of the Opens and seniors Autumn International Series with Scotland, Wales and Ireland. This is all in the next six weeks. Thereafter we are looking at an autumn roadshow around the regions and introducing some winter activity. Alongside this, we start our University Series of events in October which runs through to March next year.” 

Touch able to return quickly

The minimal contact nature of Touch meant that it was one of the first sports to emerge in England post lockdown. “Touch was one of the early sports to return and without many rule changes other than more regular sanitisation breaks. It meant we could get back to playing fairly quickly, but in limited numbers, and we couldn’t travel,” said Chris Simon. 

Local competition play restarted in March this year and regional level competition in April. “We finally got back to some form of national activity in May with High Performance training and in June with the first Elite Nationals Touch Series competition. It has been non-stop since, with every weekend having at least one Touch event or training taking place. We have had six mixed club competitions, three High Performance training camps, three Nationals tournaments and two test match weekends with Wales between the end of June and August.”

Pandemic down time used wisely

The fast return to the field of play followed a long pandemic induced hiatus. The ETA used the enforced break productively. 

“From March 2020 to May 2021 we continued to base most ETA activity online whilst working behind the scenes on planning for the future, both the immediate return whenever that might happen, and the wider 3-5 years. We spent some time on recruiting and engaging new Board members, restructuring the paid and voluntary workforce and submitting our full application for recognition by Sport England- something we are awaiting the outcome of. As part of this we used the opportunity to refresh many of our policies and introduce new ones, including our first Transgender, Non-Binary and Gender Diverse Policy.”

Touch nations all over the world turned to online learning during Covid-19 lockdowns and the England Touch Association was no exception according to ETA CEO Chris Simon, “We adapted, moving refereeing and coaching delivery online, generating some much-needed income, but also engagement for our membership through enhanced skills workshops.” 

Membership numbers healthy

The hard work undertaken during the pandemic lockdown by the ETA, and its vigorous return to play strategy, has led to a remarkable surge in membership and interest in the sport as Chris Simon noted, “We have a record number of clubs and leagues engaging with us at the moment and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Our individual membership has also recovered to almost record pre- Covid-19 levels and we are keen to continue driving this forward.”

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