In response to our request for questions from the adult skating community regarding tier three restrictions in England we received a range of responses. There were several overlapping issues which have been simplified to make the information as clear as possible.
Skating is incredibly beneficial to my mental health. What is being done to help those who can’t skate?
We understand that skating offers enormous benefits when managing mental health. Several online sessions have taken place focussing on ways to manage and improve mental health. We would encourage all those that would like a copy of the recording to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our new member portal, Skate Perks, also has a wide variety of wellbeing tools. These range from breathing exercises to mindfulness training. All BIS members have access to the Skate Perks portal and can login here.
While we appreciate they do not replace being on the ice these tools are available to offer support during these difficult times.
Have any government representatives seen the patch environment either in person or on video to see the difference between this and leisure skating?
Details regarding patch sessions were raised in discussions with government. British Ice Skating was clear in advising the difference between public skating and other activities. The organisation also produced documents that would allow for the safe and covid-secure return of skating.
What is the difference in risk levels between parents sitting beside the rink and skating on the ice?
We are not aware of any specific differences. Alongside the English Ice Hockey Association we worked tirelessly to produce a return to rinks that would allow for safe and covid-secure training that was approved by the government.
Would it be possible for the government to approve adult only patches separated in time from the under-18s?
In tier three the government agreed to only a select few exemptions. Originally, they were adamant that all rinks would have to close when placed in the highest restrictions. After hours of discussions some exemptions were granted but adult skaters were unfortunately not included in that list. We maintain that ice rinks needs to be reclassified as sports venues that would allow adult skaters to return
How much income are our rinks and coaches losing from not having adult skaters on the ice and what funding are ice rinks being given to continue to remain open?
British Ice Skating does not have this information. We have no jurisdiction over ice rinks but are working with the Ice Rink Managers Association to make sure we can offer as much support as possible.
We have also highlighted funding being made available by Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Northern Ireland and Sport Wales.
Can you please detail exactly what lobbying you have been doing to get over-18s back on the ice?
After the second national lockdown we engaged with DCMS in several meetings when it was revealed that all ice rinks would have to close for all. We spent hours in discussions alongside colleagues from IRMA and EIHA arguing for the ability to open rinks for organised skating. The exemptions granted did not go as far as we hoped but did allow for exemptions to be put in place for under-18s, disability sport and elite athletes.
British Ice Skating is continuing to work alongside EIHA and IRMA to put pressure on the government to reclassify ice rinks as sports venues. If rinks are reclassified as sports venues this would allow for the return of adult skaters in tier three. This campaign began with a letter sent to the Prime Minister, you can read more about that here.
Who within BIS is taking responsibility for the work?
The work being done by the organisation is supported by a range of staff and volunteers. The whole team has put in an enormous amount of effort throughout the pandemic to support all members and will continue to do so.
Why has the government classified ice rinks as entertainment venues and not sport facilities? Why can other venues such as ski slopes open?
The government has offered no formal reason as to why ice rinks have not been reclassified as sports facilitates.
A joint letter has been sent to the Prime Minister asking for this change to be made urgently. We, along with the EIHA and IRMA have argued all along that ice skating is a sport and will continue to do so.
We have repeatedly made the argument to government that rinks should open as sports venues and offered various ways in which they could open in a safe way. This included opening for adult skaters, but the government was willing to only allow under-18s, disability sport and elite athletes to train in tier three. The work done behind the scenes to allow for those exemptions cannot be underestimated.
Other venues such as ski slopes can open as the government has classed these as sports venues.
Why after the first lockdown was this age restriction not placed? I would like to understand why it is on this lockdown?
Rules and guidance affecting skating and all other sports have been divided between children and adults from the very start of the pandemic.
Why did BIS not put more resources into reclassifying ice rinks during the first lockdown when this first became an issue?
A huge effort was put in during the initial lockdown to adapt and make sure that members were supported throughout the pandemic and the team at BIS worked tirelessly to represent all skaters.
Alongside fighting for the right to re-open rinks we have led industry leading online sessions, produced government approved safety documents to allow people to skate and continued to adapt to the ever-changing restrictions.
The issue of reclassification is one that many hours of work have been put in to try and rectify. We can assure members that it is not through a lack of trying or resources that ice rinks are still classed as entertainment venues in the eyes of the government. This is a campaign that we are working with the Ice Rink Managers Association and EIHA to continue to put pressure on the government.
It comes across that adult skaters are less of a priority than other members, is this the case? Have adult members been forgotten?
We can assure all members that adult skaters are no less of a priority than any other member. We were disappointed to learn that no exemption had been granted for over-18s in tier three but also heartened that at least some would be able to skate in the highest tier. At no point were BIS asked which they would prefer, we have always been fighting for all skaters. As can be seen by the continued campaign and letter to the Prime Minister there are no groups being forgotten by the organisation. We will always work for benefit of our membership as a whole.
Can you please give us regular progress updates moving forward about what you are doing and what you are coming up against?
Yes, the process is open and honest. Every update is communicated with members as soon as possible, with dedicated staff in place to ensure communication with members is put first.
Why can’t I skate as an elite athlete? I have competed at ISU events.
The legislation put in place by government has strict rules as to who is classified as an elite athletes. We have had to follow strict guidance when determining any elite athletes granted an exemption. The legislation classifies elite athletes as “an individual who derives a living from competing in a sport, a senior representative nominated by a relevant sporting body, a member of the senior training squad for a relevant sporting body, or someone aged 16 or above and on an elite development pathway.”
A “senior representative” means a person who is considered by a relevant sporting body to be a candidate to qualify to compete on behalf of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Tokyo or Beijing.
It also states that an “elite development pathway” means a development pathway established by to prepare athletes so that they may derive a living from competing in that sport, or to compete in that sport in the Olympic or Paralympic Games.
Did BIS and DCMS reach a compromise without considering adults? Can rules not be brought in line with other sports such as gymnastics?
British Ice Skating did not reach a compromise without the consideration of the needs of adults. During discussions with DCMS we asked for exemptions for both over and under-18s. We are unable to adjust our guidance to mirror gymnastics due to the classification of ice rinks as entertainment venues. Gymnastics facilities are classified as sport venues and ice rinks are not, something that we have written to the Prime Minister about and continue to oppose.
Unfortunately for as long as the legislation is in place British Ice Skating cannot alter its guidance.
As a governing body we have been in long discussions with senior officials within DCMS and can assure members that the correct contacts were made to make sure the interests of members were represented at the highest level of government.
Can you change the criteria for “educational and training purposes”?
BIS is limited by government legislation as to what can apply as “educational and training purposes”. The legislation means that professional training that’s working towards a BIS coaching qualification can go ahead across all tiers. For practical activity sessions, you should follow all BIS guidance.
This legislation applies to all sports in England and all National Governing Bodies must follow the same rules.
Can we rebrand as “skaters over 18”? This carries less baggage than “adult skaters” and is more accurate as a descriptive category.
There is no specific name that is used to describe skaters over 18. Official communications vary between terms and the government has only referred to under-18s.
Can BIS allow international athletes to train as elites in Great Britain?
BIS is only able to place athletes on its elite pathway who will represent Great Britain.
The government guidelines allow sport to carry on in tier 3 and do not say ice skating should stop. So why can’t I skate in an indoor rink?
This is due to the classification of ice rinks as entertainment venues. The government has advised BIS that the legislation does not preventing ice skating, it refers entirely to ice rinks. The guidance does not allow rinks to open other than for under-18s, disability sport and elite athletes.
We are continuing to challenge the classification of ice rinks as entertainment venues alongside IRMA and EIHA.
What more is being done for over 18 skaters?
British Ice Skating is working with EIHA and IRMA to campaign for the reclassification of ice rinks so they are recognised as sports venues. If successful, this would allow rinks to open in tier three in England for adult skaters. The effort began with a letter to the PM that can be read here.
Alongside this campaign BIS continues to offer a huge array of online sessions that any member can sign up to. These range from talks with Olympic legends through to exercise classes.