A question of feasibility - Stewart, Mansingh discuss practicality of resuming RSPL in July
It’s a beautiful, warm, sunny Sunday afternoon in July, and the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) is set for a resumption after roughly four months suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The football fraternity, consisting of players, coaches, club administrators, fans, and pundits are all happy to have live sports again. As far as the football fraternity is concerned, if this comes to fruition as planned by the Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA), a common good would have been achieved.
The association’s vice-chairman, Carvel Stewart, recently told The Gleaner that to have a safe resumption of the league, the body would have to ensure that venues are protected. This would mean matches being played without spectators, observing proper hygiene and other health protocols, and giving each team adequate notice of a resumption so that they can prepare accordingly. Stewart also said that he would be paying attention to what is taking place in Europe, especially the Bundesliga, which starts this weekend, to see what other practices they have that could be implemented locally.
Before the RSPL can be resumed, all players would have had to be tested for the novel coronavirus before they can be cleared for action. This process would not be unique to Jamaican football as that is also expected to happen across Europe’s major leagues such as the German Bundesliga, England’s Premiership, Italy’s Serie A, and Spain’s LaLiga, who have all worked to resume action as early as possible this summer. Bundesliga players would be tested on the day before games and also at another time in the week. Would such a process be unethical because the rest of society would be deprived of limited testing kits, which would now be used on footballers?
TYPES OF TESTING KITS
Dr Akshai Mansingh, a sports physician and University of the West Indies Faculty of Sports dean, says this is not necessarily so as it would depend on the type of testing kits used.
He says that there are two types of kits that could be used: one that checks for antibodies and another done by swabbing for saliva. But he says neither test is without issues.
“What antibodies show is if you have had exposure to the virus in the past, and these are available outside of the government system,” Mansingh says. “The thing is, there are many different types, with varying reliability.
“The swabs are available privately, too, but it’s only a government lab that processes it. Those are the ones that are harder to get in limited supply.
“The antibodies one can be used outside of the ones in limited supply that we have.”
Stewart says that the PLCA would want to test players ahead of the league’s resumption but admits that it may be difficult to do this on a game-by-game basis.
“Some of the things being discussed [by the wider public] are incongruous,” he said. “We are either going to try to return our country to some semblance of productivity in whatever area in which we’re involved or we’re not. Are we gonna just shut down and wait to die?”
Stewart says that it is important to attempt to “keep football alive” as a game being played is not just for the sake of having sports, but it helps to sustain the economy through various personnel such as club staff, security, and vendors who would be working on each match day. He says that whatever decision that is finalised by the PLCA would have to be arrived at based also on what safeguards the Government would have put in place by then. However, he is in full agreement with FIFA’s plan to allow five substitutions per team in each game when football resumes wide-scale. Another idea he proposed is placing more water bottles on the sidelines so that players can hydrate more often and spit less.
But Mansingh says a July resumption is far too soon, especially if league organisers are gauging their actions on what is happening in Europe.
“Europe has gone through its peak already,” he said. “We’re still in the middle somewhere.”
“They are talking about isolating the players, and so on [In Europe]. Unless you’re gonna house local players somewhere and isolate them to play matches, it might be a bit trickier.”
The Bundesliga resumes this weekend while Serie A is preparing for resumption on June 13. LaLiga and the Premiership are also looking to continue their games in June.