TEAM SPORTS and gyms have been given the all-clear to resume operations on Monday.
This was revealed by the Prime Minister during a press conference, on Saturday, which primarily focused on the continued relaxation of covid19 restrictions.
“Team sports can begin, gyms will be open. Where team sports are allowed, there is to be no congregation within venues. For example, you won’t have spectators for the event but the players can play,” he said.
Over the past two weeks, several of the world’s top football leagues have already reopened without the presence of spectators.
Dr Rowley believes the resumption of sports without fans is mandatory to restrict crowd gatherings and limit the possible spread of covid19.
Rowley also welcomed the return of local horse racing to the Santa Rosa Park, Arima. During the initial stages of Government’s phased reopening, leaders of the Arima Race Club (ARC), Betting Levy Board and TT Racing Authority were hopeful for an earlier lift on restrictions to host their annual Labour Day races.
Their request was denied. However, Rowley’s most recent remarks have granted the fraternity the go-ahead for Monday’s resumption.
He said, “We were hoping we would have been in a position to grant permission for the Labour Day horse racing event but we couldn’t. Today I can say to the horse racing fraternity, go back to your business, horse racing is allowed. Remember the basic principles of social distancing and cleanliness."
Calls to ARC president Robert Bernard’s cellphone for a response on the return to racing went unanswered.
Although team sports have been given the go-ahead to officially resume on Monday, cricket is currently in the off-season and is estimated to make an anticipated return in approximately six weeks.
The resumption of TT Cricket Board (TTCB) sanctioned matches will depend on weather conditions over the next couple weekes and if club curators can return their respective pitches to the required standards during this time.
Since the Prime Minister closed all sporting facilities in mid-March due to the global pandemic, all maintenance work on grounds, pitches and fields was forced to be put on hold.
Recently, a committee was appointed by the TTCB to begin preparations for two T20 tournaments (Over-40 and Over-50) in July/August. TTCB president Azim Bassarath remains hopeful these competitions can bowl off.
“The meteorological office has said during July and August there would be more rainfall than prior years. All of those things would have to be taken into consideration. The other aspect we have to look at will be the state of grounds and facilities during the downtime.
“In this circumstance, the health of the people comes first. We will continue to take all the required protective measures to ensure they say safe. Everyone is happy team sports have been given the go-ahead but we must take into consideration the importance of player and public health,” said Bassarath.
If these tournaments do receive approval by the cricket board, committee members and competing clubs must uphold a responsibility to ensure all safety and sanitation measures are observed
He added, “Even though the Prime Minister said we can go back to team sports, we will not be able to go back to those before at least a four to six-week period. It’s not as simple for cricket.”
Acting TT Pro League chairman Brent Sancho welcomed the return to football, even without spectators. While eager to kickstart the 2020/2021 competitive campaign, he believes there are still several meetings and discussions to be held with the executive and clubs to ensure a safe and secure environment going forward.
Committee members have already held positive talks via online meetings on a return to normalcy, post-covid19. Sancho affirmed there must be a clear understanding among the executive, clubs, players, officials and spectators to ensure all the required guidelines are adhered to.
“A fair understanding of the new guidelines must be appreciated. Sanitation and no spectators are integral to the success of coming leagues. Those discussions will be initiated very soon now that the announcement has been made,” he said.
The new TT Pro League season was originally scheduled to get underway in June but was pushed back due to the novel virus. Sancho however, guaranteed a swift return to local competition.
“We have made a decision that our youth league will commence shortly. Football will be played this year at the senior level. There is a buzz around the TT Pro League to resume but there are still procedures to go through. The TT Pro League is very much prepared to start playing football.
“TT definitely needs football to play so we could focus on playing the sport and not on the circus that is going on outside of it. We must also have a better understanding in relation to sponsorships and that type of support. Additionally, the players have been laid off playing for quite some time so we also have to take those things into consideration as well,” he added.
Meanwhile, TT Cycling Federation (TTCF) head Joseph Roberts stated board members will meet within the coming days to chart a way forward for the sport. TT has already qualified three cyclists (Nicholas Paul, Kwesi Browne and Teneil Campbell) for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, which has been pushed back to July 2021. The development of their talents over the next couple months is key.
During the downtime, Roberts indicated he would be setting up virtual cycling for local riders to train and compete against each other. This initiative is still in the pipeline but will be released to the cycling population in the near future.
“We have to sit and meet now that the restrictions have been lifted. We plan to meet this coming week to discuss further. We will be launching the virtual cycling sometime in the coming week. I’m just finalising some of the registration forms and the technical information,” he said.
Additionally, the Sports Company of TT will resume athlete and team training activity at its facilities from Monday. However, use of facilities will be allowed via its online booking system only for the foreseeable future. The booking page can be found at http://sportt-tt.com/book-a-facility/.
According to a release issued by SporTT’s senior manager of corporate communications Kevin Garcia after Rowley’s briefing on Saturday, he affirmed that for the next two weeks, SporTT will only allow booking of activities through national governing bodies.
“All requesting parties must submit the names and contact information for all participating athletes, coaches and other support staff at the sessions to allow for contact tracing, if required. Persons without contact information or not on the booking list will be refused entry into facilities,” the statement read.
Games can resume but without spectators nor patrons at the venue.
The release concluded, “SporTT will meet with NGBs next week as we continue the process. We ask the public to cooperate with us during this time as we gradually reopen and allow more persons to access the facilities. SporTT will regularly update the public as we allow for more activity."
President of the Tennis Association of TT (TATT) Hayden Mitchell also expressed gratitude with the lift on restrictions. Tennis is deemed a non-contact sport and was able to return to the local circuit in a limited capacity just over one month ago.
“TATT is pleased with the announcement that team sports can resume from Monday. With this announcement, our national teams can now resume training and continue along their developmental pathway,” he said.