COVID guidance for sport and physical activity across the UK


We are in regular contact with the relevant bodies within England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the aims of:

  • Minimising the impact on our sector, while keeping people safe
  • Calling for financial and other support where appropriate
  • Providing clarity for you whenever new restrictions are announced

We will keep this page updated, as well as posting updates on our social media channels:

Please note, this is only intended as a summary of current guidance. If in doubt, please refer to the relevant government website (links below).

Current restrictions/guidance (updated 20 January 2021)


General guidance

  • England is moving out of ‘Plan B’ restrictions.
  • All forms of sport and physical activity can still take place with no restrictions, but we recommend you continue to take sensible precautions such as hand sanitising, good hygiene and ventilation. You should also encourage use of the NHS COVID-19 app to help reduce the spread of the virus.
  • From 27 January you will no longer need to show an NHS COVID Pass at venues and events by law, but venues may still choose to use them.

Face coverings

  • From 27 January, face coverings will no longer be required in indoor public spaces, but the government suggests you continue to wear one in crowded and indoor spaces where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet (you do not currently need to wear one in premises where exercise is the main activity).


  • Until 27 January, some larger events are now required by law to use the NHS COVID Pass. This applies to unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees. Only customers who are fully vaccinated or have tested negative in the last 48 hours can be admitted (unless they are exempt from these requirements). More details here.
  • From 27 January you will no longer need to show an NHS COVID Pass at venues and events by law, but venues may still choose to use them.

Testing and self-isolation

  • Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms (or if told to by NHS Test and Trace) should self-isolate and book a PCR test. Anyone testing positive must self-isolate. You can stop self-isolating at the start of day 6 if you get 2 negative rapid lateral flow test results on days 5 and 6 and do not have a temperature. If either test is positive, wait until the next day before testing again. More details here.


  • Government guidance for England
  • Sport England FAQs


General guidance

  • All businesses and workplaces must follow the safer businesses and workplaces guidance. This includes maximising good ventilation, hygiene, regular staff testing and encouraging everyone to comply with face covering regulations.
  • 1m physical distancing should be implemented in gym and leisure centre settings. For classes limit numbers to ensure physical distancing can be maintained throughout the activity and at control entry/exit points.
  • In Scotland people are being asked to stay at home as much as possible and to limit gatherings to groups of no more than three households in the run-up to and immediately after Christmas Day.

From 05:00 Monday 24 January, restrictions including one metre physical distancing in hospitality and leisure settings and table service in hospitality venues will not be required and attendance limits at indoor events will be removed. Non-professional indoor contact sports will also resume. More details here.

Indoor contact sport

  • From 26 December, for up to three weeks, indoor (adult) contact sport and physical activity should not take place. This ends on 24 January.
  • sportscotland defines contact sport or activity as “a sport or activity in which the participants necessarily come into bodily contact or as a matter of course encroach within 2m of one another” such as Judo, Netball and Basketball.
  • Professional and/or elite indoor contact sport with approved plans and protocols in place may continue with training and competition. For further information regarding professional/elite sport please refer to the relevant section in Return to Competitions and Events.

Face coverings

  • By law, everyone age 12 and over must wear a face covering in most indoor public places in Scotland (unless exempt). This includes gyms, leisure facilities and community centres, but you can remove them while exercising. More details here.

COVID Vaccine Certificates

  • A COVID vaccine certificate or a record of a recent negative COVID-19 test result (from either a Lateral Flow Device or PCR) is needed for: indoor events (unseated) with 500 or more people outdoor events (unseated) with 4,000 or more people any event with 10,000 or more people.
  • Professional football and rugby stadium operators should follow Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): Stadium Sector Guidance for Professional Football and Rugby.

Sporting events

  • Large outdoor events can resume without physical distancing or capacity limits from 00:01 on Monday 17 January, following a review of all measures in place to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  • To support the lifting of capacity limits on outdoor events, COVID certification will remain for these where more than 4,000 standing or 10,000 seated are in attendance, and all other events and venues previously covered. Organisers of all events with more than 1,000 attendees will be expected to check a minimum of 50% of attendees for certification of vaccination, exemption, or negative test. More details here.

Testing and self-isolation

  • If you’re a close contact of someone with COVID–19 and you’re fully vaccinated along with your booster dose, you can take daily rapid lateral flow tests for 7 days instead of self isolating. If you test positive or develop symptoms during this time you should self-isolate for 10 days.

  • If you test positive for COVID-19 you should self-isolate for 10 days. You can end self-isolation early if you do not have a high temperature and get 2 negative lateral flow test results on days 6 and 7, taken at least 24 hours apart.

  • If you do not have symptoms and get a positive rapid lateral flow test result, you must self-isolate. You do not need to take a PCR test to confirm your result.



General guidance

From 6am on Boxing Day, alert level 2 measures will be introduced. For sport and physical activity, the main impacts are:

  • Large events will not be allowed indoors or outdoors. The maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be 30 and 50 outdoors, not including anyone taking part e.g. players, coaches, referees.
  • There will be an exception for team sports, where up to 50 spectators will be able to gather outdoors, in addition to those taking part. There is also an exception for events involving children.
  • A general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces, where reasonable.

From 15 January

  • Up to 500 people can be present at outdoor events. This does not include those participating in a team sport event, meaning 500 spectators can be present.

From 21 January

  • There will no longer be any legal limits on the number of people that can meet outdoors
  • COVID Pass needed for large outdoor events.

£120m of business support will be released by the Welsh Government to support businesses impacted by these changes, in addition to the £3m of support announced for sporting organisations impacted by the removal of spectators.

More details here.

There are some general legal requirements of businesses and employers to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and keep people safe. You can find all the details here.

Face coverings

  • Face coverings are required in all indoor public places. This includes gyms, leisure centres and anywhere open to the public. If you are preparing to exercise, changing or undertaking any activity that isn’t strenuous, especially when in close contact with other people, you will need to wear a face covering, but you do not need to wear one while exercising. More details here.

Testing and self-isolation

  • People who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days from their PCR test date or when symptoms started, whichever is sooner. People can end self-isolation early if they get two negative rapid lateral flow tests – one from day 6 and the second at least 24 hours later.
  • If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, follow the guidance on self-isolation and testing.

Sporting events

  • From 26 December, sporting events in Wales will be played behind closed doors.
  • There will be a £3m fund to support clubs and sporting venues affected by these measures.


Northern Ireland

General guidance

  • All indoor and outdoor sport is permitted.
  • People are being asked to take precautions such as limiting contact with others, limiting the time spent in indoor settings e.g. changing rooms/showers, avoiding sharing equipment where possible, keeping your distance from others where possible, washing hands and using hand sanitiser, and taking a lateral flow text before meeting others.
  • A risk assessment must be completed for outdoor events or more than 30 people, or for indoor events of more than 15 people. You should also ensure good ventilation and ask people to wear face coverings indoors. More details here.

Testing and self-isolation

  • If you have symptoms of or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 you must self-isolate. If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, follow the guidance on self-isolation and testing.

COVID Certification Scheme

  • People need to prove their COVID status for access to indoor events with 500 or more attendees with some or all of the audience not normally seated; outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees with some or all of the audience not normally seated; or events where more than 10,000 people will be present regardless of whether they are seated. More details here.

Face coverings

  • The use of face coverings is now required in all indoor settings accessible to the public across Northern Ireland, but you do not have to wear a face covering in a gym or other place where the purpose of your attendance is physical exercise.
  • However, you may wish to encourage people to wear a face covering in crowded indoor areas, when they are not exercising. More details here.



Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity

CIMSPA's work enhances the career opportunities and professional development of the workforce operating in sport, fitness, exercise, leisure, gym, coaching, health and wellbeing. We achieve this through sector-wide engagement, membership, networking, events, directories and professional standards.


Incorporated by Royal Charter Charity registration number 1144545

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