As part of its ongoing assessment of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on football, the Malta Football Association is constantly revising and updating the operational protocols and guidelines in relation to domestic football activities with the assistance of local health authorities.
The latest updates to the COVID-19 medical protocol and related issues were discussed during a meeting of the Association’s Council on Wednesday afternoon.
The updated guidelines are intended as a reference point for clubs and are in sync with the recommendations issued by the Public Health Authorities and SportMalta. In the current circumstances, it is impossible to establish a completely risk-free environment but these recommendations are aimed at minimising the COVID-19 risk. The co-operation of all the stakeholders in observing and implementing these practical guidelines is of crucial importance.
During the Council meeting, Malta FA President Bjorn Vassallo explained that, when the domestic competitions were suspended in March and eventually terminated prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a Legal Notice prohibiting the organisation of sports activities for public health reasons. This restriction has since been lifted by the Government, allowing football and all sports activities to resume in accordance with the measures and guidelines issued by the health authorities and SportMalta.
With the 2020-21 domestic football competitions scheduled to start next month, the medical and operational protocols are being prepared by a consultative body which has been set up to address such matters in view of the evolving scenarios and difficulties created by this pandemic.
The consultative body, which is composed of experts from the medical, public safety and football operations fields as well as representatives of the Government, is taking into account the viability of such onerous protocols for the different categories.
Due to the uncertainty created by the current situation, the MFA administration informed the Council that all local football matches organised by the Malta FA are to be held behind closed doors until further notice. The start of the Youth FA competitions will be tied to decisions related to the opening or otherwise of schools. In the meantime, training sessions and friendly matches will continue with the said preventive measures in place.
This position is also intended to give a clear direction before the planned start of the 2020-21 competitions while ensuring a level playing field.
UEFA CLUB COMPETITIONS AND NATIONAL LEAGUE MATCHES
With regards to the home matches of the Maltese teams involved in the 2020-21 UEFA Club Competitions and the UEFA Nations League commitments of the national team, these will be held in accordance with the guidelines of the health authorities and UEFA’s Return to Play Protocol.
These requirements and other related matters were discussed with the representatives of the clubs involved in UEFA Club Competitions.
The Council was also given an update on the current situation vis-a-vis members of the local football community who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Association’s Medical Department is maintaining regular contact with the representatives of the clubs concerned, providing guidance and assistance to ensure full compliance with the recommendations of the health authorities.
While reiterating that the health and safety of one and all is the overriding priority, clubs and Member Associations are encouraged to seek guidance and assistance from the Malta FA when dealing with COVID-19 issues. The Association is keeping the situation under constant review and liaising with the local health authorities.
FORCE MAJEURE CIRCUMSTANCES – NEW COMPETITION REGULATIONS
The Council has approved a set of new regulations on the sporting outcomes of league competitions in the event that these are terminated prematurely due to ‘Force Majeure’ circumstances as was the case in 2019-20 when the domestic competitions were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main points of the new regulations, which will come into force with immediate effect, are:
• Classification to stand and first-placed team declared league winner in any given category if 75% or more of the scheduled matches have been played when the championship is terminated.
• In the event that the number of championship matches played is below the 75 per cent threshold, the competition would be considered abandoned without sporting outcomes, unless these would have been already mathematically attained.