Jason Leitch: Sport has a crucial role to play
Scotland’s National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch has confirmed sport is very much on the agenda when it comes to moving out of lockdown in an in-depth interview on this week's Official Scottish Rugby Podcast.
He said: “I think sport has a crucial role to play in a number of levels. There is the physical activities piece, the encouraging people to get active and all of that but sport is much, much wider than that in the Scottish Psyche.
“It is community, it is family get together, it’s just meeting in the pub and watching a rugby game or going to your local park and watching your teenage daughter playing in a rugby match. It is huge for Scottish society, not just rugby but some folk snooker might your game but the community engagement in that is so important.
“I can absolutely promise you that you have very strong advocates for return inside the Scottish Government, not just me but the Minister for Sport, the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister are very keen that sport is in the spreadsheet when we decide what comes back at what pace.
The challenges of course are that sport is a different thing from running the Grangemouth Oil refinery or running the clothes shop in Buchanan Galleries. So, we have got to work out what each of these areas need and what safe looks like in a donut shop and what safe looks like in a school run community rugby game.
“That is what your organisation and your players, coaches and experts are helping us do. But I promise you that sport, rugby, have not been forgotten about in that process and we will, when it is possible to give you the green light. I am confident that your teams, your medical teams and those that look after your players at all levels are ready for when that green light comes.”
Professor Leitch then went on to talk about the club and community game and how patience remains key at this pivotal time.
He added: “I get quite a lot of messages from families saying, “When can my little girls play rugby again”, just those normal life questions. It is really difficult to see an immediate way where contact sport can return.
“Let’s bear in mind here that we have only been in this for three months. We are coming out the other end, and we are all impatient of what that will look like. We all want back to the coffee shops and the cafes and the Indian Restaurants and to play sport and to watch sport. So that is coming, but we are going to have to do it in steps.
“I think we will get back to training, quicker than we will get back to contact games. We will get back to practise games in smaller groups before we get back to competitive Under 13 rugby. But we are going to have to do that in a staged way, just like the elite version is going to have to be in a staged way.
“Every conversation that we had last week with rugby and football was not just focussed on the elite game. People should be reassured that those conversations, in the rugby circles and other sports, are absolutely also about grassroots.” Jason Leitch
Professor Leith praised Scottish Rugby’s document on how a Return to Rugby might look in Scotland and how positive the meeting was with the sport last month.
Leitch said: “I thought that was an excellent meeting. Mr Joe Fitzpatrick (Minister for Public Health and Sport) and I met with a number of sports that afternoon. I think that the rugby plans are excellent. They are well thought through, are using international examples. Your clinical teams such as James Robson and others are very prominent in the decision making, which is crucial.
“This is not a rugby problem. This is a clinical public health problem and we have to adapt your sport and training to that problem. Things like outdoor gyms being safer than indoor gyms, so how would you use all of Murrayfield’s pitches to do physical distancing exercises. So, they have thought that through deeply.
“I can’t do that. James Robson and the players and teams in Murrayfield have to do that and then we look at it and say “what are you going to do about changing rooms, people arriving in cars” but honestly, I thought that the plans were excellent.
“If given the go ahead for Phase 2, they have plans in place for what that outdoor training would look like in physically distanced groups, unless you live in the same household. Protecting everyone, not using too much of the indoor space so moving the gym to outdoor space and how the Murrayfield campus would be used for entrance and exit. We were happy with it. What we don’t know yet is when we can fire the trigger to allow them to do it, but we are hopeful that will be Phase 2.”