The Malta Football Association and the Aquatic Sports Association (ASA) have renewed their appeal to the Government and the local health authorities to provide specific guidance on the practice of all sport in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the health and safety of all remain the overriding priority, the Malta FA and the ASA reiterate the need for clear and coherent guidance on sports competitions, especially at elite level, to enable athletes to practise their sport while observing all applicable precautionary measures. These are challenging times when society needs sport more than ever for its own wellbeing, both physical and mental.
The absence of exemptions that take into account the requirements of athletes at elite level is seriously jeopardising the staging of matches and sports competitions in general. Eventually, this state of affairs will threaten the very existence of sports associations and in view of this, both the Malta FA and ASA urge the local authorities to be reasonable while keeping a balance between one’s health and the continuation of sporting activity.
Applying a strict quarantine regime on entire squads, regardless of the level of contact being traced, is preventing players from continuing with their training for 14 days, in the process hampering teams’ preparations. This will inevitably have a disruptive effect on competitions, both domestic and international. The BOV Waterpolo League is currently suspended, whereas, in football, the Malta FA competitions are scheduled to start on the 11th September.
In the case of football, with international fixtures involving national teams resuming in two weeks’ time, there is an increased risk that players considered for selection to the national squad might not be available for the above-mentioned reasons. If this situation persists and potentially deteriorates, Malta’s participation in the upcoming UEFA Nations League could be in jeopardy, causing reputational damage to our country’s image at international level.
Best practices from other countries have shown that the requirements of elite sport in this context have been addressed through ad-hoc legislation based on scientific evidence, affording targeted exemptions from certain restrictions such as self-isolation.
With regard to waterpolo, the ASA has made a huge effort by staging its activities at one venue, the National Pool, as opposed to all the club premises for all our junior matches, to avoid having hundreds of players and parents/supporters going from one club to another to follow games. This was primarily done to prevent any possible unnecessary contact in a number of venues across the island, once again showing that sports associations have great respect for the recommended measures and guidelines.
In this context, both the Malta FA and the ASA have been proactive by drawing up and submitting proposals to the local health authorities. However, our athletes and clubs keep receiving mixed messages and little guidance.