The sight of a stadium bouncing with cheers and jeers and actual fans may seem like a distant memory, but the latest guidelines by the central government may bring the crowds back to Indian sport sooner rather than later, although the ‘when’ is unclear. For the first time since the country went into lockdown in March, authorities are allowing spectator (albeit limited) attendance at sporting events.
In the latest set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, 50 per cent attendance at stadia has been permitted along with the stipulation of a COVID-19 task force being set up by tournament organizing committees.
AFI president Adille Sumariwala, though, says that it may not mean an immediate resumption. “We were confident of hosting events from the middle of January, but now with the new strain, the goalposts are shifting every day,” he says.
Sumariwala, and his fellow administrators, do however now have the option of conducting events again.
Or do they?
Here’s an explainer of what the new guidelines mean —
When does it come into effect?
While the union ministry has given its go-ahead for sporting events to be hosted in the country, the final call will rest with the respective local authorities where the venues are located.
What does it mean for indoor events?
According to clause 6 of MHA guidelines for surveillance, containment and caution issued on November 25, indoor gatherings are allowed up to a maximum of 50 per cent of hall capacity subject to a ceiling of 200 persons. State/Union Territories can further lower the cap to 100 persons or less.
The latest SOP stresses that CPWD’s guidelines – air conditioning setting of 24-30 degree Celsius, relative humidity of 40-70 degrees and adequate cross ventilation – be followed for events in closed arenas.
So what are the major tournaments in India ahead?
The ongoing Indian Super League will continue to run until March (tentatively), the India-England cricket series starts in February, and the early months will see the conduct of the I-League, Shooting World Cup and India Open Super 500 badminton event. Given the logistical challenges, how many of them throw their doors open to spectators, however, remains to be seen.
What are the protocols for athletes?
Except while in the field of play, athletes and support staff are to maintain a physical distance of six feet, refrain from handshakes, high-fives, and in case of multiple events enter the warm-up area/field of play once the athletes from the previous event have left the venue. Athletes are also to avoid massage/physiotherapy unless absolutely necessary in which case sanitization of hands, equipment and use of masks is required.
The installation and use of the Aarogya Setu app by athletes and support staff has also been advised. The Central Information Commission had earlier pulled up the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology for claiming not to have information on the origins of the app.
What are the measures and precautions required of organizers?
Among the guidelines for organizers are — minimizing the pool of participating athletes by enforcing strict qualification criteria, cutting down the number of support staff, exploring the option of multiple venues where events can be held simultaneously, reducing the number of lounges/breakout rooms for gatherings and CCTV monitoring to detect overcrowding at entry/exit points and seating areas in large events.
Support staff members whose physical presence is not absolutely essential have been advised to assist remotely. Organizers have also been directed to accommodate athletes and support staff members in single rooms and designate a COVID-19 response team, who they can reach out to in case of symptoms.
“For track and field events, we plan to stagger it in a way that the events don’t carry on from morning to night every day. We’ll increase the number of days and reduce the number of hours per day that will make it easier to spread out athletes,” says Sumariwala. “Also the competitions are going to be strictly for athletes who need to be there and have an Asian or World event spot on the line, rather than having several hundred of them come over.”
What about testing?
Depending on the risk perception and the scale of events, the organizing committee has the discretion of making RT-PCR testing of athletes and support staff carried out within 72 hours prior to the event, mandatory.
Do spectators have to wear masks at all times?
In outdoor stadia, it might be hard to enforce especially in longer-duration games such as test matches. In the UK, for instance, face coverings are ‘encouraged’ in outdoor venues and ‘mandated’ in indoor sports venues, including in queues and concourses. Singing and shouting is discouraged.
What is the mandate of the COVID-19 task force?
Apart from regulating and monitoring the travel of athletes and support staff, the task force will be responsible for ensuring the overall implementation of SOPs during a tournament.
How have other countries gone about allowing spectators in sporting venues?
In the UK, which is struggling with a more contagious strain of the virus, spectators are allowed (but in limited capacity) in sporting venues that fall in tier 1 and tier 2 regions. In both these tiers the cap is fixed at 1000 spectators for indoor arenas. For outdoor venues, a maximum of 4000 and 2000 persons are permissible in tier 1 and tier 2 areas respectively.
Premier League clubs fall in either tier 2 or tier 3 (not open to spectators) regions and under the existing guidelines only four clubs – Liverpool, Everton, Southampton, and Brighton & Hove Albion, are allowed to have a limited number of fans back in stands. But with the new strain spreading rapidly, pressure is mounting for the whole country to be put under tier 4 (England’s most stringent COVID-19 level) lockdown.
#Fans #return #Indian #stadiums #Decoding #SOPs #conduct #sporting #events