League managers say clubs can’t bear financial strain
MASERU – The Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) says safety and other processes proposed for the continuation of the suspended top-flight football league are extremely costly for its resumption. Action in the Econet Premier League (EPL) has been highly expected to restart following an indefinite suspension in March, a measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the globe.
On average, the EPL remains with eight matches to bring the 2019/20 football season to a close, and PLMC chairman, Ikarabelle Sello, it has all along been their wish to resume the league and wrap up the season. But the PLMC boss revealed this week that proposed safety measures will bring a heavy financial burden on EPL clubs – which they will not be able to shoulder should a decision be reached to restart the league.
“As the PLMC, we have all along wanted to resume playing…we even met with the COVID-19 National Emergency Command Centre through the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA); and they (NECC) outlined all measures we would need to put in place and follow if we were to resume the league,” Sello said in an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday this week. And as a result, Sello continued, we are going to have a meeting with the clubs on Thursday (yesterday) this week to look into everything that has been suggested as contained in communication from the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC) which, among a number of things, requires clubs to commence with the standard 14-days quarantine to establish the health status of the teams even before we start playing.
Sello further said: “Therefore, we need to thrash out and assess the implications of these requirements as the entire exercise brings with it a very heavy cost for the teams involved.” The PLMC boss said this is since the players would have to stay isolated at camp until all the eight remaining matches have been played. “This means players will have to return to camp after every match because if they go home after each game they will be required to be quarantined for another 14 days before they play again.”
This is the reason, according to Sello, that meeting before a decision is reached is crucial as we (PLMC and club committees) have to come up with a budget to be presented to LeFA for financial assistance as “clubs cannot not afford such camps on their own.” The LSRC has since asked national sports associations intending to commence with training and competition in their various codes to submit plans which clearly indicate planned activities drafted in line with set World Health Organisation and the national health ministry on COVID-19. And Sello confirmed to this reporter that LeFA, as the football mother-body, has received correspondence from the sports commission regarding the submission of this plan.
“Yes, I am aware of such a letter. It was dated June 15 and directed to the secretariat of each association,” he said.“The letter basically catagorises football as a high risk sport with regard to COVID-19, and as a result has demanded of LeFA to fill a risk assessment form and return it to them,” he said, adding that the LSRC has indicated that it will only be after receiving clarification from LeFA that the way forward will be charted. The deadline for the submissions was last Friday, and this paper has established that the Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association (LAAA) has already submitted their outline for resumption of their activities.
Unlike football, track-and-field events are placed under low risk category within the COVID-19 context. Other sporting codes in this category are golf, cycling, chess, darts, bodybuilding, table tennis, badminton, pool/snooker, aerobics, tennis and weightlifting. Squash, volleyball, gymnastics, cricket, netball, swimming, baseball and softball are placed under medium risk; while dance sport, rugby, taekwondo, judo, boxing, karate, handball and basketball are placed under the high risk category like football. These developments follow a letter to the Minister of Sports, Likeleli Tampane and the LSRC, by the Maseru Golf Club seeking to be allowed to return to action.