Regatta’s passionate fans told to stay home as councils close shores

Regatta clubs clubs are worried that crowd control measures introduced for the first time this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic will not succeed in keeping spectators away

Senglea supporters deck up at the Gardjola garden which this year will be closed
Senglea supporters deck up at the Gardjola garden which this year will be closed

Written by Milaine Buhagiar

Regatta clubs clubs are worried that crowd control measures introduced for the first time this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic will not succeed in keeping spectators away from the shores of Senglea and Valletta next Tuesday, as seven towns vie for the  Victory Day shield.

For the first time in years, no spectators will be allowed to follow the national regatta in the Grand Harbour.

Fans and supporters of the Bormla, Isla, Birgu, Kalkara, Marsa, Marsamxett and Birzebbuga clubs have been told to stay away and follow the races live on TVM.

And yet no one seems to know exactly how the authorities plan to keep the fans away from Senglea’s Ponta coastline and the Valletta waterfront, short of temporarily closing down access to the two stretches of shoreline and enforcing a no-go zone.

The police themselves plan to be present to maintain law and order, “as we always do”, a spokesperson said.

Senglea Regatta Club president Charmaine Gerada told MaltaToday the local council will close the Gardjola garden overlooking the harbour, but that were no plans to close off access to the shoreline. “We will limit access to our clubhouse to our rowers and committee members only, as we have already been doing for some weeks now,” she said. “On Tuesday, we will not be allowing relatives of the rowers and other fans to access our clubhouse and the area around it.”

Evan Buttigieg, president of the Bormla Regatta Club, concurred. “We have been informed that Wharf 4 and 5 will be closed off this year, and we will be limiting access to our premises on the day.”

And club officials inside Valletta’s old Customs House will also be limited to one member per club during the race.

But as to how authorities planned to keep fans away from the shores of Senglea and Valletta, the two best vantage points to follow the races, both Gerada and Buttigieg said they could not see it happening.

“A few weeks ago, the Valletta Pageant of the Seas was held in the same exact tract of the Grand Harbour,” Gerada said. “And on that day, thousands of people lined the shores of Valletta, Senglea and Birgu, up to Barrakka Gardens.”

The National Regatta Association’s president Stephen Paris has encouraged fans to stay home. “Watching it at home gives people a better chance of seeing everything clearly and close up, rather than seeing the event physically from somewhere very far away.”

Even individual prizes will not be presented on a platform: instead, the rowers will move to the shore and accept their prize from there. The platform will only be used to present the Shield for rowing categories A and B, and the women’s category.

Additional reporting by Paul Cocks

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