VANCOUVER, BC - Whitecaps FC confirmed on Tuesday morning that the provincial public health officer, local health authorities, and infectious disease experts, in coordination with the club's COVID-19 working group and Major League Soccer, have approved the club's plan to move into the first phase of return to play. Starting today, ’Caps players will have the opportunity to conduct voluntary individual workouts at the club's outdoor training fields.
"We are pleased to move forward with the first phase of return to play in a safe and responsible manner," said Whitecaps FC sporting director Axel Schuster. "We have worked very closely with all the health authorities, and impacted groups, to prepare a strategic and coordinated plan for players and staff to use the training fields."
By allowing players, on a voluntary basis, back on the Whitecaps FC National Soccer Development Centre training fields for individual workouts, the club is able to provide a controlled environment that ensures adherence to safety protocols and physical distancing measures for players and staff. The club’s two primary grass fields will be used, which will provide a quarter of a pitch for up to eight players in one session.
“This is a positive step forward,” added Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos. “In addition to the on-field voluntary individual workouts, we are continuing our micro cycles including full team video workout sessions, individual strengthening, aerobic runs, and bike rides, as well as tactical video review sessions.”
The voluntary individual player workout protocol prohibits access to the club facilities including but not limited to locker rooms, team gyms, and team training rooms. Team gyms and training rooms may still only be accessed by players receiving post-operative and rehabilitation treatment, as directed by the club’s chief medical officer. The club will provide content in a timely manner including images, footage, and soundbytes, as media will not be allowed any access to the training facility or outdoor fields.
Prior to initiating phase one, Whitecaps FC provided a specific plan that outlined how the club will implement health and safety protocols, including:
- Restricting training facility access to essential staff only, with specific staff listed in the plan
- Sanitization and disinfection procedures for all training equipment and spaces, including disinfection of any equipment used by players (e.g. balls, cones, goals, etc.) between every session
- Completion of a Standard Screening Assessment survey by each player prior to every arrival at the training site, and temperature checks upon arrival at the facility
- Staggered player and staff arrivals and departures, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles
- Player use of personal protective equipment from the parking lot to the field, and again on return to the parking lot
- Staff use of the appropriate personal protective equipment throughout training, while also maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet from players at all times
- Hand washing and disinfectant stations for required use before and after individual workouts
- The use of the two outdoor fields at the training facility, divided into a maximum of four quadrants per field with a maximum of one player per quadrant per training session with no equipment sharing or playing (passing, shooting) between players
- An Emergency Action Plan for all COVID-19 related issues
The club’s COVID-19 working group includes chief medical officer Dr. Jim Bovard, sporting director Axel Schuster, chief executive officer Mark Pannes, vice-president of soccer operations Greg Anderson, chief operating officer Rachel Lewis, director of performance strategy Dr. Ben Sporer, as well as Vancouver Coastal Health Authority - Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Josh Douglas.
The league-wide moratorium on small group and full team training remains in place through, and including, Friday, May 15.