MASERU – Econet Premier League (EPL) clubs have agreed to end the currently suspended 2019/2020 football season halted in March when the country declared a COVID-19 national lockdown. Mauritius was the first African country to end its football season due to the pandemic, after an initial indefinite postponement on March 19; this after countries of the world went into lockdown, leading to suspension of all sporting activities as announced then by world governing bodies and national associations.
The clubs reached the decision in a meeting with the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) last week. According to PLMC Public Relations Officer, Moeketsi Ramakatsa, the agreement has been to consider the league played to finality despite an average of seven matches remaining to the end – not team will, however, be relegated to the A-Division.
“The agenda of the meeting was whether the league should resume in light of the escalation of COVID-19 infections in the country, and the decision was to end it,” said Ramakatsa in an interview this week. “Another decision was that no team should be relegated in the 2019/2020 football season.” Ramakatsa, however, said these decisions were yet to be endorsed by the local football governing body Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) and the league sponsors Econet Telecom Lesotho. “But the decision is not final. You will remember that we have LeFA as the football mother-body and sponsors to consult. So after everything is finalised the decision will then be communicated to the public in general and to the football community,” Ramakatsa said.
The main point of contention for the cancellation of the league, Ramakatsa said, was it had been suspended while the country had no record of a confirmed COVID-19 case, and that it has become more risky to start playing now when there are close to 30 confirmed cases – and numbers rise each day. The national football league was suspended indefinitely in March and at the time Lesotho was yet to register any coronvirus case. But now 27 cases of Coronavirus infection have been registered. Ramakatsa said the clubs said even if the league would resume it would still be difficult for them to comply with proposed COVID-19 precautionary measures as set out by the National Emergency Command Centre and their financial implications. Ramakatsa was not sure to when the final decision would be made regarding the league cancellation.
“I suppose everything will be finalised by Friday this week because we also have to vacate the office for our term in office will be over at the end of next month (July),” he said. Ramakatsa, however, said decision was yet to be reached on the issue of promotion of teams from the lower leagues. If the league will finally be cancelled the expectation is for Bantu to be handed the league title as current log-leaders. Bantu are on top of the 14-team EPL log table on 50 points from 18 matches. The second-placed Matlama have collected 34 points from the same number of games.