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Can organized sports resume? What are the safety requirements for sports facilities?

Last Updated: 05/07/2021

Organized Sports

Practices and competitions for indoor and outdoor organized sports, including outdoor interstate youth sports, may resume in accordance with health and safety protocols and limits on attendance described below.

Indoor intestate youth sports competitions are currently prohibited in New Jersey, but will be permitted to resume on Wednesday, May 19.

Teams and individuals should review the State's travel advisory before visiting New Jersey. Those entering from beyond the immediate region should self-quarantine unless exempted from the travel advisory (e.g., traveling to New Jersey for less than 24 hours).

This interstate ban does not apply to collegiate or professional sports activities.

The Department of Health has issued updated guidance for sports activities, including how to create a sports program preparation plan, how to prepare a facility for sports practices, how to conduct sports practices, and how to prepare for games and tournaments.

Gathering Limits for Sports Practices and Competitions

Practices and competitions are currently limited by the general indoor gatherings limit of 25 people and the general outdoor gatherings limit of 500 people but there are exceptions, described below:

  • For non-collegiate, non-professional sports, athletes, coaches, referees, trainers, other individuals necessary for the practice or competition, and up to two parents or guardians per athlete under the age of 21 do not count towards the general gathering limit of 25 individuals for indoor events. The total number of people for indoor events, including parents and guardians, is capped at 50 percent of the room's capacity. For outdoor sporting events, athletes, coaches, and referees are not counted towards the general outdoor gathering limit. Up to 500 spectators - including parents and guardians - are permitted if the outdoor venue can accommodate appropriate social distancing. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the outdoor gathering limit will be removed.
  • For collegiate sports, athletes, coaches, referees, trainers, other individuals necessary for the practice or competition, and up to two parents or guardians per collegiate athlete do not count towards the general gathering limit of 25 individuals for indoor events. The total number of people for indoor events, including parents and guardians, is capped at 50 percent of the room's capacity. For outdoor sporting events, athletes, coaches, and referees are not counted towards the general outdoor gathering limit. Up to 500 spectators - including parents and guardians - are permitted if the outdoor venue can accommodate appropriate social distancing. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the outdoor gathering limit will be removed.
  • For professional sports, athletes, coaches, referees, trainers, and other individuals necessary for the competition do not count towards the general gathering limits. The total number of people for indoor events is capped at 50 percent of the room's capacity, but no more than 250 people. For outdoor sporting events, up to 500 spectators are permitted if the outdoor venue can accommodate appropriate social distancing. Athletes, coaches, and referees, are not counted towards the general outdoor gathering limit. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the outdoor gathering limit will be removed.
  • Large venues with a seating capacity of over 2,500 people may host indoor events at 20 percent capacity. Large venues with a seating capacity of over 1,000 people may host outdoor events at 50 percent capacity. Participants, such as athletes and performers, and staff, such as coaches and ushers, are not counted towards these capacity limits. If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the indoor venue capacity limit will increase to 30 percent for venues with fixed seating capacity of 1,000 or more and the outdoor gathering limit will be removed.

Any spectators must follow guidance from the Department of Health regarding sports activities, including wearing a mask, observing social distancing, and staying home if sick. Staff, parents, guardians, and visitors are required to wear face coverings at practices and games. Athletes are encouraged to wear masks during downtime, but not during physical activity.

Local school districts, collegiate conferences, and other sports operators may impose additional restrictions on spectators.

Facilities and participants must also abide by a number of health and safety protocols outlined in the Department of Health's Guidance for Sports Activities, such as screenings for athletes, coaches, and staff; limitations on equipment sharing; and requirements for disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces and equipment.

Additional Guidance

Sports under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) must also abide by those associations' rules.

For additional information and updates, refer to the NJSIAA's COVID-19 alert page.

NOTE: A student-athlete's ability to participate with their team will not be altered in any way - regardless of whether they participate in remote-learning or in-person instruction.

Safety Requirements for Professional and Collegiate Sports Venues

Note: Beginning November 5, 2020 employers must adhere to new employee protection guidelines, summarized here. Detailed requirements, as well as exemptions for certain employers, can be found in Executive Order No. 192.

Facilities hosting professional and collegiate athletic competitions must follow health and safety guidelines found in Executive Order No. 157, Executive Order No. 183, and Administrative Order No. 2020-22.

The following summarizes some of the protocols contained in EO 157, EO 183, and AO 2020-22. However, this summary is not a replacement for fully complying with the terms of EO 157, EO 183, and AO 2020-22 and businesses should read the full guidance carefully to ensure full compliance.

Professional and collegiate sports facilities must institute the following policies:

  • Limit attendance for professional and collegiate athletic competitions to the State indoor and outdoor gathering limits. All indoor practices and competitions are limited to 25 people. However, this limit can be exceeded by individuals who are necessary for practice or competition, such as players, coaches, and referees, and by up to two parents or guardians per athlete.
  • Even if this exception applies, the number of individuals at the practice or competition cannot exceed 50 percent of the capacity of the room. Athletes, coaches, referees, trainers, and other individuals necessary to the performance of a competitive sporting event are not included in the number of individuals present at a gathering for purposes of the limits on gatherings, nor are individuals dining at restaurants located within such facilities.
  • Outdoor competitions or tournaments must abide by the limit on outdoor gatherings, which is currently limited to 500 people with exceptions outlined above.
  • Restaurants located within such facilities must follow the health and safety protocols for indoor and outdoor dining.
  • Facilities must make best efforts to ensure that individuals in restaurants located within sports facilities remain separate from all other individuals granted admission to the facility.
  • Require workers and customers to wear face coverings while indoors and in outdoor areas when social distancing is difficult to maintain, except where doing so would inhibit that individual's health.
  • If a customer refuses to wear a face covering for non-medical reasons then the business must decline the individual entry into the indoor premises.
  • Limit occupancy in restrooms that remain open to avoid over-crowding and maintain social distancing through signage and, where practicable, the utilization of attendants to monitor capacity.
  • Limit the use of equipment rented or otherwise provided by the business to one person at a time.
  • Provide sanitization materials, such as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, to customers
  • Require reservations, cancellations, and prepayments be made via electronic or telephone reservation systems to limit physical interactions.

Source: Executive Order No. 148; Executive Order No. 149, Guidance for Sports Activities; Executive Order No. 161; Executive Order No. 163; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200812b.shtml; Executive Order No. 187; Administrative Order No. 2020-22; Executive Order No. 194, Executive Order No. 196; Executive Order No. 204; Administrative Order No. 2020-25; Executive Order No. 220; Executive Order No. 225; Executive Order No. 232; Executive Order No. 238; Administrative Order 2021-01