Soccer could return … without the fans

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Mpho Tebele

Gaborone – The Botswana Football Association is considering resuming premier league and first division matches – but without supporters in attendance.

This is contained in a report prepared by the BFA Medical Committee and seen by The Southern Times.

The report states that any matches post-lockdown would be closed games without supporters until further notice; in addition to recommending regular breaks during matches so that players can sanitise themselves periodically. Players will also have to wash their hands/sanitise at half-time and at full-time.

 “No supporters should be allowed during training sessions as well as during the match day across all divisions until further notice. Where this proves to be a challenge a decision to suspend games may be warranted. This will be subject to an assessment and advice from the medical committee,” the report says.

The committee says disinfection of stadia and facilities used by soccer clubs would be mandatory, with the same going for any areas accessed by match attendants and officials.

“This should be done 3- 4 hours prior to and after every match. Fumigation is to be done if the facility has been in contact with a COVID-19 infected individual,” reads the report by the committee.

It says buses should be disinfected before and after use by players, and social distancing should be maintained as per government regulations.

The report says no player with a respiratory illness or symptoms of one will be allowed to play.

“All match attendants are to be wearing face masks unless when on the field of play. Pre- and post-match protocols which include handshakes should be avoided in order to ensure that players and officials do not touch each other. Screening will be conducted in all players, officials, ball boys, stadium staff, medical team and screening forms should be completed,” the report says.

Each team should be allocated time for screening to ensure that teams maintain social distancing, the report adds.

“This measure should be strictly adhered to (penalties will be set by the BFA). Screening will be done on everyone entering the stadia regardless of the teams having submitted their pre-match day screening tools. Preference will be given to players first and 1-meter physical distancing should be adhered to.”

The league committee will have to ensure provision of soap or sanitiser dispensers at entrances and in toilets and changing rooms.

“During the match, the ball boys should sanitise all the balls they are in contact with before throwing it into the pitch to be used. Use of children (under 18 years) as ball boys is currently discouraged until further notice. Ball retrievers should wear gloves and sanitise regularly throughout the match,” the medical committee says.

The medical committee says any team not meeting minimum compliance requirements should not be allowed to participate in the league.

“At least 1 BFA medical committee member should be available in all matches to monitor compliance to the set standards. (The) BFA Medical Committee (should) conduct mandatory training for team medical personnel as outlined above,” the report says.

There will be mandatory COVID-19 testing before resumption of training, followed by weekly tests. Should weekly testing not be financially feasible, the report says there will be daily screening instead. Experts note that screening is only 60 percent as effective as testing.

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