Health and sports: Getting the balance right | 06 May 2020
It has been an old adage that sports have always been good for one’s health but in the ‘new normal’, sports can in fact prove to be a health hazard in the post-coronavirus pandemic if the health guidelines are not respected.
Sports NATION explores this crucial topic as the world and more so our tiny sports loving nation braces itself to restart after a five-week lockdown amid fears of the spread of the COVID-19 virus which has caused many deaths across the world and has grinded sports activities to a halt and our country has been no exception.
There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has had a very drastic and more importantly a negative impact on sports clubs where clubs were either preparing to start the season in March or like football, they were reaching the climax of their season where the race for the cups was at a decisive stage. But all had to be called off when the health department decided, quite rightly, in order to protect the population as a whole, to impose movement restriction and this has affected the clubs as well as individuals.
It is a fact that most Premier League clubs, especially the top ones, were providing a financial incentive to their players and most of them have foreign players in their ranks. This incurs a huge financial burden on them which was in some ways mitigated through sponsorship and partly from gate receipts which helped them to balance the books along with the financial assistance they received from the Seychelles Football Federation (SFF).
As a result of this halt in economic activity, clubs are unable to rely on sponsorships which will be non-existent and though the government has offered a relief package that they could apply to seek assistance for their foreign players, it is very unlikely that all the applications will be successful, mostly because their records are not in order especially in regards to payments they should have been making to the government such as for the personal income tax (PIT). As a result, this makes them ineligible for these assistance.
So now that sports will be making a comeback in the coming weeks, many clubs are ready to offload their foreign players on the next available flight so as to cut down on their running cost or impose a salary cut which will surely not go down with these professional players who rely on this income to send money to support their families in their homeland. As for local players, most of them will now be more concerned about their job retention and sports will be secondary in their minds if they even decide to get back to practicing sports for the foreseeable future.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, it will most certainly leave psychological scars on our sportsmen and quite a number of them will be reluctant to return to competition due to the fear factor of contracting this disease as a result of a lack of social distancing on the field of play and in changing rooms. Social distancing is one of the pre-requirements which is much vaunted by the department of health in the ‘new normal’ as a precautionary measure to avoid the risk of community spreading.
This concern might drive people away from competitive sports as they will feel it is not a risk worth taking to compromise their own and family’s safety just to practice sports, while others will need to see concrete measures in place to ensure their health and safety before they venture into sports arenas.
The urge to restart
Locally, there is an urge by some sports officials to restart the season for varying reasons though the pros and cons must be evaluated against the health risk and safety of all sportsmen before a final decision is taken.
At the moment, the department of health’s advisory is allowing the return of recreational sport and also limiting grouping of not more than four people, which is not quite what sports clubs were hoping for as they wanted to get back to full training especially as it is being suggested that the season might restart in early June.
There is also the commitment of sports federations to complete the season to meet their obligations towards their affiliated international bodies and the clubs as there are possibilities of legal implications if the season is ended prematurely and declared null and void.
There is also the overriding desire by the leading clubs to complete the season due to the financial benefits that they stand to gain if they are successful and this financial gain might blight their judgment and they may lose focus on the bigger picture of health and safety at the forefront of any decision.
On the other hand, it might occur, though the chances are quite remote, that sportsmen may take legal actions against federations or even the sports authorities (National Sports Council) if they contract the virus while engaging in sports activities during the coming months as nowadays our population talks about suing for any petty issue and suing has become the catchphrase of our society.
After expatiating the different angles in this argument on sports and health which is our priority for the coming months and as we contemplate the return of sports after a three-month break, it is worth noting that there is no excuse for no sports activity. But are we as a nation ready to get on with competitive sports and along with that accepting the health risk as a risk worth taking?
These is surely food for thought that our sports officials have to brood upon in the coming weeks and months as the country takes its first steps towards normality in this new environment where we must all adopt a health savvy attitude and become steadfast in our commitment for protection and safeguarding our personal health.
The way forward requires much consultation between all the stakeholders to look at the short term as well as the future because suggestion of a restart behind closed doors or with limited spectators as one example appears quite straight forward but what about its implication?
It is a known fact that there has been questionable gate control at our sports venues for many years where spectators bring alcohol into our stadiums and these are issues that in the post coronavirus pandemic must be addressed once and for all.
Sports are much needed especially after the lockdown but there must be a gradual return despite of the fact that our country was blessed without any fatalities with this deadly virus. We cannot drop our guard and become complacent even though we are conscious that sports are a means of socialising and a livelihood in this world. Remember, one can socialise but at the same time keep our social distancing and it is also important to ensure that all the safeguard measures are in place before re-opening our sports venues and training grounds.
Whatever happens, it is vital that the health and safety of our sportsmen take precedence as sports are not the most important aspects at the moment, instead our health must be regarded as our top priority to help combat the coronavirus. Only after that can we restart the season and get our sports back on track without any rush or pressure from anyone during these unprecedented times.