CANI Covid-19 Guidance for Clubs

Tuesday 23rd June 2020


From Friday 12th June, clubs within outdoor sports can meet with a maximum group size of 10 (including coaches and leaders) where social distancing can be maintained. It is important to remember that this is not a return to normal operations, please follow the guidance below.

This means that club activities can now take place, where paddling activity within the club has had due diligence completed by the relevant and accountable club representative(s) including; covid risk assessments, mitigating procedures, coach/leader/volunteer training and information for members.

The Canoe Association of Northern Ireland welcomes that restrictions continue to be lifted and would like to thank all paddlers and clubs for responding so responsibly during this lockdown period.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with documents issued by the NI Executive and Sport NI.


Our priority remains to protect the health of our members, volunteers and staff and help to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

We recommend that members continue to follow the government and public health guidelines and to stay at home as much as possible. Anyone who is symptomatic or suspects they have been exposed to the virus must not take part and remain at home.

This guidance relates only to affiliated clubs in Northern Ireland, as policy and guidance in Scotland, Wales and England is subject to the devolved governments and their respective national governing bodies.

Considerations for clubs

It is important to remember that this is not a return to normal operations – only the absolute essential areas of clubs facilities should be opened and only to allow access to boats and equipment for organised club activity of no more than 10 people including coaches and leaders. At this stage, communal areas, gyms, bars, changing rooms and other similar facilities should remain closed.

Before reopening any of its facilities, clubs will need to put in place plans and COVID-19 risk assessments to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus through the use of any areas of the club or shared equipment. Every club will have slightly different considerations. However, we have listed below some suggested areas to consider.

There are a number of other important considerations for clubs when they are developing their plans for allowing access to their facilities and a return to organsied paddling activities. These are presented within the Sport NI Framework for Return to Sport guidance.

Some clubs may also need to coordinate with other clubs operating from the same premises and/or facility owners to agree their protocols.

Clubs should only re-open when they have completed the necessary planning and mitigating actions and feel able to operate safely and within the guidelines. 

Managing access to the club

Whilst access to the club must be limited, it is very important to put in place plans to help people to follow social distancing guidance.  Clubs should consider:

  • limiting the number of people allowed into particular areas at one time
  • limiting the number of people accessing the club storage/boathouse by implementing a timetable or booking system
  • managing access to shared equipment and have a booking system in place.
  • where viable putting a one-way system in place
  • checking members have the appropriate keys and locks to access the required facilities.

All members when using the facility must follow the Government’s social distancing rules found here:

Social distancing

Clubs should have plans in place to ensure the management of social distancing including:

  • carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  • maintaining 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible, such as by re-designing spaces to maintain 2 metre distances between people or by opening more entrances and exits
  • reinforcing cleaning processes, cleaning more frequently and paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards, etc as per Health and Safety Recommendations and following equipment manufacturers instructions. 

Guidance for led, coached or guided activity at clubs

Club Affiliated members can now take part in club activity (and are covered for third party liability insurance) where paddling activity within the club has had due diligence completed by the relevant and accountable club representative(s) including; covid risk assessments, mitigating procedures, coach/leader/volunteer training and information for members. However, it should be noted that this is not a return to normal club activity.

For club activity, paddlers should be competent in the environment and able to self rescue. The club should have mitigating procedures in place to reduce the likelihood of breaking social distancing. Paddles should only be planned where no rescues are likely to be needed and self rescue will be sufficient. This means that circumstances where rescues that break social distancing are likely should be avoided. Therefore we recommend at this step beginner/novice sessions should be avoided due to the difficulty of maintaining social distancing. Beginners’ sessions introduce the unknown elements of participant’s; water confidence, physical ability and boat control therefore it will be very difficult to have effective mitigating strategies in place to maintain social distancing. CANI is obliged to make the most reasonable interpretation of government guidance in the service of its members. To operate within the scope of the British Canoeing/CANI insurance, you must be following the NI Executive Guidance. If utilising independent insurance, check with your insurer. Organised club activity can resume for up to 10 competent paddlers on the water at any one time including coaches/leaders maintaining social distancing. Multiple groups should not be on the water at the same time and in the same place. Sharing of equipment should be avoided where possible. If sharing equipment, a rigorous cleaning process should be in place as per Health and Safety Recommendations and following equipment manufacturers instructions. Club activity should be recorded and promoted on the official club calendar, website, social media or noticeboard as usual.

Led, coached, or guided activity may now take place with a maximum group size of 10 (including coaches and leaders) following guidelines for ratio and remit, so long as social distancing is maintained. Club leaders should ensure that appropriate safety frameworks are in place, that delivery is in safe and familiar environments and that paddlers are self-sufficient and the use of shared equipment is minimised and proper cleaning and/or equipment quarantine procedures are in place.

Clubs and coaches are reminded that any coaching of under 18s and adults at risk on a 1:1 basis should be avoided. The relaxation of the government guidance on social gatherings now means that group coaching or individual coaching with parent/carer supervision can now take place. Clubs and coaches are reminded of the principles of CANI’s safeguarding policy. 

More information is available in our guidance for paddlesport coaches and leaders.

British Canoeing Environmental Definitions for Deployment Guidance for Instructors Coaches and Leaders can be found at the following link:


It is really important that clubs make communication with members, volunteers and staff very clear including;

  • how members are able to access equipment/facilities and their responsibilities when on site
  • what they are doing to reduce risk and what they expect from users to do the same
  • opening times and how to use booking systems
  • what users need to know and do to secure the club when leaving.
  • Club coaches, leaders and volunteers; back to work induction and training on covid-19 risk assessment and procedures. 
  • All club members sign a covid-19 consent form.

Which areas of the club to open

Clubs are advised only to open the minimum facilities required to allow access to boats and equipment in a safe manner. Gyms, changing rooms and social spaces should remain closed.

Clubs may open toilets following government guidance.

Clubs are required to manage hygiene and should consider:

  • encouraging members to follow good hand hygiene practices at all times;
  • placing hand sanitiser at entrances/exits and common contact touch points (e.g. padlocks, door handles);
  • appropriate protocols and products for cleaning any shared equipment before and after usage; and,
  • putting in place a regular cleaning plan, particularly for any common touch points (door handles, locks etc.).

This is detailed within the government guidance here.

Boats and equipment

Clubs are urged to ensure that the use of shared equipment is kept to a minimum to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. Ideally, place any unnecessary equipment in storage. 

Club boats can be used subject to a booking system being in place and an equipment quarantining or rigorous cleaning and hygiene procedure being followed to clean the boat after use.


It is the responsibility of the club to plan for and ensure that paddling activity takes place within the government guidelines and existing safety frameworks. Clubs must be mindful that members who are not individual CANI members are only covered by the insurance and waterway licence when participating in club activity.

In this phase of return to activity, we are recommending that paddlers restrict their paddlesport activities to environments which are well within their capabilities. 

All activity at the club needs to fall within the club’s safety plan and British Canoeing Paddlesafe guidance.

Changing rooms and car parks

Indoor facilities, apart from toilets and through-ways should be kept closed. You may re-open car parks if you need to.

Further information

CANI will continue to develop more guidance and advice for clubs as more information becomes available.

CANI – A return to Paddling in Northern Ireland – Link to home page

Sport NI Framework for Return to Sport 

NI Executive Phased Plan 

Club Covid 19 Risk Assessment Template (PDF)  

Club Covid 19 Risk Assessment Template (Word)

COVID 19 Consent Form