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Football on ice

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Board will meet again on Thursday to decide the best way forward for football in SA

PLAYING behind closed doors is not the solution to the rampant coronavirus that has left the world holding its breath.

That is the view of the South African Football Association (Safa), who have suspended their programme in light of the outbreak.

The Covid-19 disease has affected a number of sporting events, leading to the cancellation of some and suspension of leagues across the world.

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) joined those leagues by suspending matches that were scheduled for tonight, tomorrow and this weekend.

The league’s board of governors will meet with the executive committee on Thursday to deal with the way forward. That is likely to be a suspension of domestic league as Safa feels that playing behind closed doors isn’t adequate, especially after President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the banning of meetings that have more than 100 people. Matches behind closed doors would have more than 100 people.

“Some of the football authorities elsewhere in the world have taken measures such as playing matches in ‘empty’ stadiums without spectators,” Safa acting chief executive Gay Mokoena said.

“This response has not proven to be effective in minimising the spread of the virus. In Europe, some players who were participating in matches ‘behind closed doors’ have recently been found to be positive. Therefore, we do not believe that the practice of playing behind closed doors is effective.

“Following on our statement of last week in which we had indicated that it was not necessary to postpone or suspend the domestic football programme at that stage, circumstances have changed drastically for the worse.

“Government has called on all stakeholders to take all necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus.”

The PSL’s meeting on Thursday will shed light on the way forward as there are legal and financial implications of suspending the league.

The PSL will meet with government to get more clarity on the over-100 people ban before meeting on Thursday to come up with the way forward.

“This is a very challenging moment in the history of the country,” PSL chairman Irvin Khoza said.

“The executive has called an extraordinary executive committee meeting to deal with extra-ordinary issues. We are gathered here because of the statement made by our honourable President.

“The take home for us as the executive committee of the PSL and football at large is that the government has prohibited the gathering of more than 100 people, which is a challenge that is posed to the PSL and everybody.

“It is important to also closely follow international developments on the pandemic, the nature and spread of coronavirus matters. One person is all it takes for hundreds of people to get infected. The transmission can happen through proximity, you might not necessarily touch but it can also be picked up through infected surfaces.”

Khoza continued: “There are a lot of issues that are under the table. What is important is that as the board of governors, together with the clubs, we are going to take a decision that is in the best interest of the country, to make sure that we are acting in a responsible way and do things that are assisting in the process.”