Associations call on authorities to allow for the resumption of sport competitions when lifting restrictions

The Aquatic Sports Association of Malta, the Malta Basketball Association and the Malta Football Association insist sport has not contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in the country 

Football, basketball and water polo associations have called on government and local authorities to allow for the gradual return of competitive sport in their plans to lift restrictions on April 11.  

The Aquatic Sports Association of Malta (ASA), the Malta Basketball Association (MBA), and the Malta Football Association (MFA) jointly renewed their appeal for the return of sport.  

Referring to data issued by the Public Health Department, it was pointed out that sport has consistently ranked last in terms of activities leading to clusters contributing to the transmission of the virus, with negligible impact. 

“These figures, as presented by the health authorities, have remained constant before the partial lockdown announced in mid-March and now that its effects are there for all to see and when sport cannot be practised at all,” the statement read.  

All three associations stated that they agree to a gradual return to competitive activity but insisted that the lifting of the prohibition on contact sport as of 12 April is crucial for athletes and teams to resume with appropriate training. 

“While the health and safety of all remain the overriding priority, athletes must be able to practise their sport while observing all applicable precautionary measures”, ASA President Joe Caruana Curran said. “Best practices from other countries have shown that the requirements of elite sport in this context have been addressed with top-tier competitions all over Europe going ahead with the necessary safeguards”. 

MBA President Paul Sultana said top-level sport is equipped to contribute towards keeping the situation under control, rather than the other way round. “So far there have been significant efforts to sustain our competitions through the application of thorough medical protocols and continuous testing. In this sense, our Associations have responded well to the added responsibilities put on them.”  

MFA President Bjorn Vassallo pointed out that Malta is the only country where all sport, including at elite level, has been stopped. “This is the professional level which represents the livelihood of many players and technical staff.” 

The lack of playing time will also impact national team performances according to Vassallo. He also said that failing to resume training as of the 12 April would almost certainly mean that the BOV Premier League will not be completed within UEFA-imposed deadlines. 

The three Associations emphasised that the priority is to be given to senior level rather than junior or amateur competitions, which involve a much larger number of participants. 

“We are still in time for domestic competitions to be terminated naturally in a way that values the efforts made so far by associations, clubs, and athletes to sustain their activities in such challenging times,” the statement read.