THE Ministry of Sport and Community Development has announced that the safe-zone return-to-play proposal developed by the Ministry after consultation with stakeholders and officials has been approved. Sports administrators welcomed the news, but Trinidad and Tobago Pro League interim chairman Brent Sancho believes it’s long overdue.
A media release on Sunday said, “National governing bodies (NGBs) and sport serving bodies will now be able to host sporting events and execute sporting activities for fully vaccinated athletes, coaches, officials, and administrators at specific sporting facilities.”
Since the covid19 pandemic started to affect TT in March 2020 sport has been on the sidelines, with few exceptions being made. National athletes and teams have been permitted to train periodically during the pandemic. A few sports, including tennis and golf, have been allowed.
Fans who are vaccinated will also be allowed to attend sporting events.
“Approval has also been granted for fully vaccinated spectators to attend events at 50 per cent facility capacity for outdoor events, and 25 per cent facility capacity for indoor events subject to guidelines to be issued by the Ministry of Health.
“The new Public Health Regulations will be published today (Sunday) and will take effect from tomorrow Monday, January 24, 2022.”
In October, certain sectors were allowed to reopen for vaccinated people at 50 per cent capacity. Gyms, casinos and cinemas were also given the green light.
Sancho felt little joy, saying Sunday’s announcement should have been made a long time ago.
“I think obviously for me it’s long overdue. It is something I felt could have been done a while back.”
Sancho said the Government showed “zero enthusiasm” during the pandemic to resume sports.
“Many should say you should just be happy. It is hard to be happy, because from where I sit this could have been dealt with a long time ago.”
Sancho said there was more zeal to host the Hero Caribbean Premier League in TT in 2020 and the 2022 Under-19 World Cup now being played in the Caribbean, including TT.
The former national defender said it will be a “huge challenge” to get the funding to run local leagues and tournaments with so many companies struggling financially during the pandemic.
President of the TT Cricket Board (TTCB) Azim Bassarath welcomed the news. “Great news, we are very happy for the news,” Bassarath said.
“We have made this call at our press conference earlier this month...we at the TTCB are ready to go. We have had everything in place (and were) only waiting for this announcement.”
Bassarath said the TT cricket fraternity is 90 per cent vaccinated.
“We have made an appeal to cricketers to get vaccinated...we had already set the tone that where only vaccinated people will be allowed to participate in our tournaments.”
Multiple tournaments for senior and junior cricketers are planned from February-June.
President of the National Association of Athletics Administrations George Comissiong was elated. “For us, it is excellent news. Our athletes have been waiting for quite a while to resume competition. We did have meets last year, but they were insufficient.”
Comissiong said with the Carifta Games less than three months away it is especially welcome news for the junior athletes preparing for the games, carded for Jamaica in April. He said a development meet is being planned for next weekend to get athletes prepared.
During the pandemic, NGBs, national athletes and sporting enthusiasts have been clamouring for the return of sports.
National senior men’s football coach Angus Eve, after TT’s 5-0 defeat to Bolivia on Friday, said no club competition in TT is having a “massive” effect on the national team.
Eve said, “A national team is not a club team and is not supposed to train week in, week out to get players fit, and probably have a match once every month, which is when usually the (international) windows are.
“You’re supposed to have competitive club football playing so the guys can get and build their match fitness there and then you select them based on what you see them do in those environments.”
Coaches, players and administrators of local football marched through Port of Spain on November 11 isn a demonstration of the desire to resume not only resume football but sports in general.
The protest followed Government’s decision to blank the Ascension League’s proposal to resume football.
Leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was held in July/August 2021, national track and field athletes only had a limited number of meets to compete in locally. Only the athletes based overseas and those able to travel competed regularly. TT ended the Olympics without a medal for the first time since the 1992 Barcelona Games.