International hockey will be played only after a vaccine is developed for the coronavirus, said the International Hockey Federation while announcing a five-stage process devised for resumption of the game at different levels.

The FIH said global competition among its member countries will be possible only during the last stage of the process, the timeline of which cannot be set.

“These are very early days when it comes to a return to action but within its guidance FIH has produced a five stage process showing the route back to something resembling normality. This starts, as has been seen in the Netherlands and Belgium, with a return to carefully managed training, still with social distancing measures in place,” the FIH said in a statement.

“The next stage will be a resumption of regional competition, followed by local travel between neighbouring nations. Trans-Continental competition will follow and, finally, once a vaccine is in place, it is hoped there will be a return to normal competition.”

“There is no time scale for these stages to be reached and it will vary from country to country.”

FIH said when competition does resume, organisers will need to be conscious of safety measures that will need to be implemented in order to keep the hockey workforce and the fans safe.

The document will help and support Continental Federations, National Associations and clubs in their efforts to make a headway towards resuming some sort of training activities.

“The guidelines, which are aligned to those issued by the World Health Organisation, cover the entire hockey workforce athletes, coaches, officials, staff, administrators and volunteers. Along with a risk assessment chart to which all hockey organisations are advised to adhere, there are also guidelines for organisers of international events once there is a return to international competition,” the FIH said.

Like most sports, international hockey has come to a standstill because of the pandemic, forcing the FIH to extend the second season of the FIH Hockey Pro League, which involves considerable international travel for competing nations, through to June 2021.

“Hockey, as a team sport, with contact, is seen as a higher risk activity and so is subject to higher levels of control and restriction.”

The Health and Safety guidelines of the FIH also includes a risk assessment produced by Dr Sean Carmody, a doctor of sports medicine at Manchester Metropolitan University. “Prior to resuming any activity, all hockey organisations should carry out an assessment based on Carmody’s risk assessment chart,” the world body advised.

With PTI Inputs