How PSL can get the ball rolling again

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) suspended all matches due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) suspended all matches due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Image: PSL/Twitter

In March, the Premier Soccer League (PSL) suspended all matches due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The PSL and the SA Football Association (Safa) have indicated their commitment to completing the 2019/20 season. In this regard, they have jointly formed a task team mandated to provide solutions on the manner in which professional football may be resumed in SA.

It has been reported that Fifa has imposed a deadline on the conclusion of all domestic leagues, which is July 31.

As the clock ticks and the pressure intensifies to meet Fifa's deadline, there are some considerations which will assist in ensuring the resumption of football in SA, even under lockdown alert level 3, which comes into effect on Monday.

The German Bundesliga is an interesting case study to consider in the attempt to develop health and safety guidelines for the resumption of football in South Africa amidst the lockdown.

The Bundesliga made its return to action on May 16, becoming the first major league in Europe to do so since the virus outbreak. The German government permitted the return of football after monitoring all the risks involved and having been satisfied of the safety of players and staff associated with the clubs.

Among other things, the German guidelines provide that players and staff must be quarantined and must be tested prior to training, and on match days, and that players and staff must travel in separate transportation to ensure adherence to social distancing.

In South Africa, it is reported that the PSL has earmarked Sun City resort as the designated place to host all the Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship clubs.

Sun City is an attractive option as it is in close proximity to three stadiums - the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Moruleng Stadium and Olympia Park - which can host the outstanding matches.

The secluded location is particularly advantageous as it will ensure that the respective leagues are finalised with minimal public exposure.

If indeed Sun City is used, strict measures may need to be followed to ensure that the location does not become a Covid-19 breeding ground.

We recommend some measures to assist in the safe resumption of football. These are:

Training and matches must take place without spectators and individuals must change at their residences;

players, coaches and all applicable personnel must wear face masks at all times;

Equipment must be regularly disinfected; and

Strict social distancing protocols must be observed for activity occurring off the field (that is, no team huddles)

Guidelines for hotels

Hotels must be booked exclusively for the team or exclusive floor/areas to prevent contact with other hotel guests;

One player/ staff member per room; and

Strict protocols relating to the consumption of food

Guidelines for organisational precautions in stadium

The stadium premises must be divided into three zones: the interior, the stands and the stadium exterior. Individuals will only be allowed access to certain zones;

No mascots or child escorts; and

Handshakes and group photos must be prohibited.

Our view is that the safe resumption of football is contingent on the task team's ability to provide creative measures that ensure football's safe resumption.

But can a player who expresses unwillingness to play be forced to in the light of Covid-19? This is a legal question that the task team, the PSL and the clubs may need expert legal advice on in considering.

This article was written by Karabo Tshabuse (associate and Fifa agent), Zawadi Dlamini (associate) and Tshepo Twala (candidate attorney) at Bowmans

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