The commencement of Level 4 lockdown as of 1 May 2020 has raised the issue of when football will restart and whether Level 4 provides basis for playing games behind closed doors.
The English FA has announced Project Restart which aims to return to action in June. This will be preceded by a huge run of tests to ensure players safety.
The FIFA Medical Chief, Michel d’Hooghe said that football should not be played until September 2020 saying ‘as a medical doctor’ he would be sceptical about continuing leagues amid the coronavirus pandemic.
This view is supported by former Manchester United captain and defender Gary Neville who says Premier League players’ lives will be put at risk if football is rushed back too soon after the coronavirus lockdown.
In the meantime, the Dutch and Belgium Leagues have both been voided.
The French PM said that football will not return in his country until at least September 2020.
SAFA seeks medical opinions
“We have taken note of the above and has further invited the opinion of two medical experts to submit reports,” said SAFA.
These reports will advise when it would be safe to resume playing football in South Africa.
SAFA will submit a full report to the world football governing body, FIFA on the impact of Covid-19 on football in our country and when SAFA believes it will be safe to resume football again.
SAFA will work with the government led by the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Minister Nathi Mthethwa on this process.
What the report suggests
Playing football requires travelling, including from one province to the other and that cannot be achieved under Level 4.
Another issue is the social distancing factor – football is a contact sport where ‘we cannot social distance’.
Conducive playing environment needs:
To sanitise the Venues – both the Training and Match venues.
To thoroughly screen all the players including the technical and support staff before any games are played.
For it to be safe, the recommendation is to test everyone involved for Covid-19 rather than just screening.
The screening should be done on a daily basis because the virus can at times be dormant and not show any symptoms when someone could be carrying the virus.
Players are discouraged from using the dressing room and must shower at home.
Clubs must arrange that players do not use public transport when football resumes.
The players should not share drinking bottles among others.
The technical and support staff must always wear masks.
The kit manager must always wear medical gloves when collecting and distributing the kit.
As things stand, the two experts argue that football can only be played on Level 1 but still without spectators and that all clubs must have full-time Sports Doctors to manage the Covid-19 situation.