Club Covid-19 Safety Coordinators
As rugby players across Scotland started to return to training, each of their clubs was asked to nominate a Covid-19 Safety Coordinator to oversee public health and safety measures across the club, ensuring that the club is operating to the Scottish Government and Scottish Rugby guidelines.
Across Scotland, there are 173 Covid-19 Safety Coordinators within clubs. To date, Scottish Rugby has held three Covid-19 Safety Coordinator training webinars with a total attendance of 507.
Speaking on one webinar was Hamilton Bulls Covid-19 Safety Coordinator, Alan Clisby. We spoke to him to discuss how he was brought into the role and some of the changes and challenges the club has experienced in returning to rugby.
Becoming a Covid-19 Safety Coordinator
Following his retirement from the Health and Safety sector, Alan was approached by club committee members who knew his expertise may be of use in the current climate. He recalls: “They phoned me up and said ‘Alan, we’re looking for some help. Knowing your background, could you come in and help us, we need to do a risk assessment and we’re looking for a COVID-19 Safety Coordinator.’
“So, I got a whole load of information from the committee which had been sent from Scottish Rugby. One of the first things that I saw was the profile of the role and my jaw dropped, but I knew I would be helping the club by taking it on.
Alan was previously a Secretary at the club for six years. He said: “It’s definitely helped me become more involved with the club again. Whether I like it or not I’m seen as the expert advisor on all things COVID.
“It’s been rewarding for me, it’s almost four years since I retired so to go from everyday working, there is a void there. It’s been good as it’s got my brain working again.”
Many Hands Make Light Work
Although Alan was keen to help the club, he knew it would be very hard for him to do everything that was expected of him within the role, by himself.
He introduced a structure to the club that would help him communicate the latest guidance and regulations to each of the playing groups. He now has direct contact with a group of 17 Team Leads from each group of players, from minis to seniors. Team Leads are a mixture of coaches and team managers with each one responsible for ensuring their team is complying with the latest guidance.
Alan has also had the help of employee at the club. Bar Manager Tony Malley also set up a dedicated platform where Alan can answer frequently asked questions from the Team Leads as well as being on hand to find the answer to any queries, with support from with Scottish Rugby.
Development Officer, Steven Meenagh, produced digital booklets for mini, midi and senior rugby so that players and parents would know what to expect upon their return to Leigh Bent.
As well as introducing a new structure one of the main tasks Alan was tasked with was implementing regulatory documentation. He said: “My initial remit was getting the risk assessment up and running, into a format people could understand because it’s the hub of everything going on.
“I asked key people at the club to tell me if there are any processes in there or not, that they do. Don’t look at it as risk, look at it like activity. It was good because they added in things like physiotherapy, which we will need later on down the line.
“I’ve kept up with communication on that, we’re up to about issue five or six of the risk assessment now."
"The single biggest thing you need to get right is not the risk assessment itself. It's the communication of what we need to do."
“The pandemic has also caused the committee to look inwards at all their policies and procedures and think 'have we got them all right?'
“Although it’s quite onerous, we’ve got to do it, to comply and keep people safe.”
Changes and Challenges
Although there have been many policies and procedures implemented at Hamilton upon the return to rugby Alan acknowledges that people are only human, and things will fall through the net sometimes. “Occasionally we do drop the ball, if one group are coming off the pitch and another going on, they want to stop and chat. I’ve explained to the Team Leads that it’s not usual, it’s human behaviour, you’ve introduced a new policy, but these players are only wanting to do what they are used to doing. I’ve explained that’s where they need to challenge and remind them why.
“I watched the last 10 mins of the U18 training on Sunday, the coach rightly challenged me when he thought I was a parent, stating I should be watching from the car. I was pleased that he did challenge me, it shows that they are enforcing the change that’s being driven at the club.
“One of the main challenges is trying to quell the urge to return to normal. Will we ever get back to what we thought was normal? I’m not sure.
"Because people saw other clubs opening on social media, they thought we weren't working fast enough to reopen. We have a plan in place that is going to work for us, we will know when we are ready, as soon as you start condensing the time shortcuts start to happen and you’ll end up dropping the ball.”
The Team Leads at Hamilton are now recognising activities that might become hurdles further down the line. "At last night’s meeting, they realised they will need to open the clubhouse soon as the nights are getting shorter and the floodlights will need to be on for training.
“It’s now entering the stage that I enjoyed in the Health and Safety world, and that’s the behavioural side of it. I try to talk to people, influence their behaviour through different avenues. I can apply this to the club, helping the members break habits by showing them that some behaviour is now unacceptable.
“In sport, you can’t just say ‘You’re not following the risk assessment’ because the reality is some people won’t have read it! You need to look at and change their day-to-day behaviour.”
For Alan it's good to know that club members are committed to the safety of the club, he said: "I’m getting a lot of feedback thanking me for the work that’s going on, If they weren’t engaged as a club I wouldn’t be getting feedback like that.”