The Ministry of Youth and Sports has proposed measures for sports resumption which include quarantining players, banning international events and discouraging players’ use of public transport.
The measures are contained in a report, dated August 24 2020 titled Guidelines for Reopening of Sporting Activities Amid Covid-19 Pandemic, which The Nation has seen. The ministry was expected to submit the report to the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 yesterday.
The document, which projects sports events to start next month, advises associations to “avoid hosting and participating in international sports events until the situation normalises”.
On players quarantine and use of public transport, the report says: “Players and their officials to be quarantined for 14 days before participating in the sporting event…All players and sports officials to avoid public transport where possible.”
The implications of these measures are that Malawi may not be able to, among other events, participate in the 2022 Africa Cup of Nation (Afcon) qualifiers and that clubs will have to dig deep in their pockets to fund camps for their players’ quarantine and source private transport for their travelling.
The Flames are expected to face Burkina Faso in November in back-to-back Afcon qualifiers, following rescheduling of games by the Confederation of Africa Football.
Meanwhile, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) Task Force on Covid-19 chairperson Chimango Munthali described these measures—which will be effected after the Presidential Task Force’s approval—as tough to implement.
“We have asked for a review of those measures because they are difficult to implement. We can’t afford to miss out on Afcon and other competitions. Again, it will be expensive for clubs to quarantine the players for 14 days,” he said.
However, the report is not restricting spectators from watching games though with strict adherence to Covid-19 prevention.
“To maintain social distance, as per Covid-19 preventive guidelines, the following measures shall be observed: increasing gate charges; printing tickets half of the capacity of the venue; pre-selling tickets and not at the venue and early opening of gates,” the report points out.
Basic Covid-19 preventive measures which include sanitisation, mandatory wearing of face masks and temperature measurements before entry into venues, will also be enforced, according to the report.
Allowing fans is great relief to football clubs as they rely on gate revenue. If the ministry followed international tradition where games are being played indoors, analysts warn, local football would have been doomed.
The ministry is also urging organisers to make sure that “all facilities at the venue should be cleaned and disinfected a day before the event. [The facilities include] dressing rooms, toilets, medical rooms and seats”.
To ensure adherence, the ministry has proposed the formulation of a team to oversee implementation of preventive measures.
“The relevant competition authorities shall set an Event Coordination Team comprising sports association’s delegate, a health authority official, stadium manager and security personnel that will ensure that all measures are adhered to,” the ministry writes.
The ministry warns that non-adherence to the measures will attract punishment that will become effective once the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 approves it.
“Failure to comply with the sports Covid-19 preventive measures will attract sanctions such as ban from organising or participating in sports events, fines and arrest by law-enforcers in line with the laws of Malawi,” the document further reads.
Commenting on the other measures, Munthali expressed optimism that they will adhere to them as they fall within their proposal for football restart.
“What we proposed was assessed by different stakeholders, we are confident that capacity is there,” he said.
On his part, Athletics Association of Malawi general secretary Frank Chitembeya described the proposed measures as a relief.
“It is pleasing to note that government is willing to resume sports. It is tough for the athletes to be idle for this long. They fear they may lose form and perform poorly during international competitions,” he said.