Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sports Restrictions Lifted …, But Can the Show Go On?

For the football thirsty Batswana, the announcement of the lifting of bans on sports may have come as a bittersweet announcement.

While many have been looking forward to the day, a closer look at the new regulations would have revealed that for sports like football, opening would be a little difficult.

Under the new regulations, not more than 50 participants and 50 officials will be allowed to gather in any sports facility.

The regulations go on to dictate that ‘a person shall not travel across COVID zones’ for the purpose of a sport activity.

It also dictates that ‘daily disinfection of facilities and equipment shall take place’ where sports activities are carried out ‘under the supervision of the Director of Health Services.’

Commenting on the matter, BFA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mfolo Mfolo said the lifting of restrictions has both its positives and negatives.

Given that there are only less than 100 people, being athletes and officials allowed in a sports facility, ‘it will be challenging to open more especially in terms of income generation.’

Mfolo highlighted that local teams largely depend on ticket sales for income and without them, teams would struggle.

The BFA CEO also pointed out that another challenge will be whether teams could afford to ‘fumigate or sanitise the facilities and equipment daily.’ 

He however said given that it has been six months since the last ball was kicked, the lifting of restrictions would give players a chance to get back to fitness.

“We have many variables to consider before we can play football again, and most importantly, we know the risk is still there looking at the number of infections,” he said.

According to the BFA CEO, for football to be back, there is a need for all stakeholders to come together and ‘find a holistic approach for its safe return.’ 

“Currently, the BFA is working on a bounceback program to mitigate for a safe return of football activities,” he said.

Mfolo said through the program, they intend not only to address how to return, but also all other football aspects like ‘marketing, sponsorships and governance.’ 

He however said in light of the announcement of the lifting of restrictions, the association would have to come with a short-term plan to reopen ‘to allow for the remaining competitions to conclude.’

For his part, Yarona FM Sports anchor Kagiso Phatsimo said it was about time the restrictions were lifted.

“Other countries which have been affected, and in some case worse than us, have since opened for sporting activities to take place and there is no reason for us not to,” he opined.

Phatsimo however said for football to successfully restart, ‘everything would have to have been planned and done in line with the set COVID 19 prevention protocols.’  

“Back in April, experts informed us that this disease may last for the next two years,” he observed. “We therefore should have started then as football to plan and map a way forward for the safe return of football,” he added.

The Gabz FM sports anchor however cautioned that opening for football activities will be a costly process for teams.

“In countries where football is being played, there are safe zones where all those involved have to stay for the duration of the leagues, separate from other people,” he explained.

“Now, in our situation, the problem will be whether teams can afford to create such for the players, which I doubt they can,” he said.

Phatsimo said given the well-known financial struggles of local teams, it is unlikely they could sustain the requisites put in place for safe sport return.

He went on to add that with the limited number of people allowed, teams will be stripped of their main revenue making avenue and would struggle.

“We also have a situation where players have not been getting salaries for months now and trying to get them back to play would be difficult,” he added.

Meanwhile, Phatsimo raised a concern that there sems to have been some pressure on the leadership to open sports.

“Nothing much has changed since the restrictions were put in place. Just as we are opening in the midst of the pandemic, we should have not closed in the first place,” he said.

“All that was needed then, as it is now, would have been for us to abide by all the COVID 19 prevention protocols as required,” he concluded.

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