The Malta Football Association has lashed out at the government and local health authorities over the extension of a ban on all sporting activities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This morning, Prime Minister Robert Abela addressed a press conference where he said that schools would be reopening on Monday, with further restrictions being relaxed towards the end of the month. There was no mention of when sports activities will be allowed.
Organised sports were banned last month following a spike in COVID-19 cases. Similar bans have been implemented in other European countries, however, Malta is the only one in which no exemption has been made for professional sport.
The MFA said that it had been pleading with the authorities to lift the ban for elite-level sports, particularly that national team, the Premier Division and the Challenge Cup.
Significant efforts, it said, had been made over the past months in order to ensure that sports can continue. This included setting up a health authorities-endorsed contact tracing system for all players and staff members. Taking into account the cost of testing and of expenses related to safety protocols, the MFA has so far forked out over €2 million.
“These efforts have been thrown away with the decision to maintain in force the current prohibition on contact sport,” read a statement by the MFA.
“The total disregard of sport as a profession by decision-makers is very discouraging and undermines all the initiatives the Association is undertaking to improve the level of the game and subsequently our national teams.”
The MFA insisted that despite repeated representations to the authorities, “no consideration has been given to the social and economic impact such a decision inflicts on the livelihood of many players, technical staff and administrators, not to mention economic and social benefits to the country, including the health and wellbeing aspect”.
The statement also pointed out that data issued by the Public Health authorities had repeatedly shown that the impact of sport on the spread of the virus was “negligible”.
Finally, the MFA said it had always delivered on its responsibilities and had always followed advice and recommendations issued by the health authorities.
“In what can be considered as a deja vu of last year, this prolonged ban represents a mere blanket approach which confirms that sport is still seen as an amateur endeavour,” the statement concluded.
Do you think professional sports should be exempt from the ban on sports?