The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Covid and sports – Incomplete competitions

Friday, 16 April 2021, 08:38 Last update: about 25 days ago

For the second year running, the football Premier League was not completed.

Last year, it was Floriana FC who were declared champions, having been sitting at the top of the table at the time when all elite sport was stopped because of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, the virus was still in its initial stages, and Malta had come to an almost complete standstill. Abroad, football leagues were suspended for a few months, but continued and were completed later. In Malta, the competition had been halted and it was never resumed.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Malta Football Association had taken a tough decision at the time, and so as not to be caught off guard again, it established protocols in case the situation took place again. And it did. In early March football and other sport were once again prohibited by the health authorities as the number of virus cases was on the rise. Earlier this month, no permission was granted for the resumption. Since 75 per cent of the premier league had been completed when the league was stopped, Hamrun Spartans were declared as Premier League champions for the first time in three decades.

In both instances, apart from the two sets of supporters who were obviously happy that their favourite team won the most important football league on the island, there was an overall sense of disappointment. That Malta is the only country in Europe where the main football competition was not completed for two consecutive years is not a record that we can be proud of.

And, whereas last year it could be said that there was still too much which was still unknown about the pandemic, this year it is felt – across the whole sporting community – that the health authorities were being too restrictive when it comes to elite sport. We understand that there were a number of cases registered among players (and not only in football), but it has happened in other countries too and yet there, competitions were allowed to continue while the athletes involved recovered.

It was felt that the health authorities should have allowed competitive football to continue, given that the matches were being played behind closed doors and the risks were minimal. Statistics showed that a very small percentage of Covid-19 cases were coming from sports. But the health authorities stuck to their decision and, when the easing of restrictions announced in April did not include sport activities, the MFA had no other option but to resort to its newly-established rules to declare the conclusion of the competition.

The decision to prolong the suspension of elite sport had an effect on other sport disciplines, such as basketball. Here, the association declared that the 20-21 season is null, with no winners and losers. In other cases, such as waterpolo, the so-called winter competitions were put off, but here there is still a chance that the main events, which are usually held in the summer months, could still take place.

The question that remains is why the health authorities chose to keep the ban on sport competitions even now that the numbers are down and they say that the vaccination campaign is progressing successfully. The answers that have been given are not really convincing.

 

  • don't miss