Sport edges closer to action

Football still banned, but clubs can resume non-contact training under lockdown alert level 3

he prospects of the suspended PSL season resuming next month with non-contact training received the green light yesterday, but it is uncertain when the 32 clubs in the top flight and lower league will kick off competitive matches.

The 2019/20 PSL season was scheduled to officially draw to a close today, with clubs then wa’s “clarification on the feasibility of resumption for both non-contact and contact sport”.

“This clarity is helpful and will move towards the finalisation of football’s position at the meeting of JLC on Monday [tomorrow]. We welcome the fact that athletes can start training under strict, specific conditions,” said Safa.

Safa acting CEO Tebogo Motlanthe explained: “Furthermore, there are requirements for a thorough monitoring of all athletes to ensure full compliance. It is also clear that contact sport like football and rugby, among others, cannot resume competitively under alert level 3 from the minister’s briefing on Saturday”.

Motlanthe said Safa has always maintained that the health of athletes is of paramount importance, something the minister underscored in his briefing. He continued: “The minister also made it clear that the engagement between his department and different sporting federations will continue.

“…We welcome the fact that athletes can start training under strict, specific conditions,…”

“Safa welcomes such continued engagements, mindful of the negative financial impact COVID-19 has had on sport in general. Football, rugby and cricket are amongst the major sporting codes that have been heavily impacted.”

Until yesterday’s clarification by Mthethwa, there has been divergent views about when football should resume with its preparations and training programmes.

And as far as the return to action goes, it is still uncertain when play will resume. There had been three positions being pursued prior to Mthethwa’s address, that of the PSL, Safa’s, and the third being that of government, with the main bone of contention being the health of the players.

Issues such as social distancing, which is impossible to maintain in contact sport such as football, and inter-provincial travel of the teams – which is still enforced under lockdown level three regulations – have led to the PSL and Safa not finding common ground over the past two months.

Football still banned, but clubs can resume non-contact training under lockdown alert level 3 starting to prepare for the new season meant to start in early August. But the lockdown, put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, put paid to those plans.

There is still a lot of football to be played, with some teams still lagging. Clubs such as Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits still have nine rounds of fixtures to play before the crowning of the league champions.

No doubt the PSL wants to complete the season as soon as possible, but it seems the professional wing authorities will have to wait much longer.

With the announcement by Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa yesterday barring contact sport, such as football under alert level 3, it seems time is not on the PSL’s side.

The PSL has been suspended since March 16 because of the pandemic and as a result, the league and its clubs are currently in a dire financial situation with a number of clubs, like Cape Town City, announcing they will be slashing salaries. During his briefing yesterday, Mthethwa said that all professional non-contact sport could restart but not contact sport, which will be restricted to distance training.

He emphasised all activities must be behind closed doors. The minister was forthright when he declared that “within the next two weeks sport managers will have to write to the department detailing a plan of activities and should give assurances that athletes and technical staff will be tested prior to the resumption of activity”.

“Sport governing bodies and clubs must appoint a COVID-19 compliance officer to ensure all health and safety protocols are followed when they resume training.” Mthethwa said all hygiene and social distancing protocols must be adhered to.

“Non-contact sport and training for professional athletes may resume in compliance with the health protocol without any spectators.

“All sports bodies must within 14 days inform the minister in writing as to the date of resumption and further provide an operational guideline, including a guarantee in the form of affidavits related to the testing of all officials, before resumption for training and matches.”

The PSL, as well as Super Rugby teams, could start non-contact training from tomorrow, but games can only take place from level 1.


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