BELIEVING in strength in numbers, seven National Sports Associations led by athletics chief Philip Ella Juico have banded together to request government authorities overseeing the novel corona virus pandemic for a “calibrated approach” to resume their respective sports activities.
The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president initiated the online meeting last May 29 among Samahang Basketbol ng Philippines executive director Sonny Barrios, Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta Jr., Philippine Rugby Football Union secretary general Ada Milby and PRFU CEO Jake Letts; Larong Volleyball ng Pilipinas Inc. secretary general Ariel Paredes, Karate Pilipinas president Richard Lim and Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion.
“The main purpose behind the meeting was for the NSAs to share their best practices during training and competitions to cope with COVID-19 and to help NSAs which still have to formulate such protocols,” Juico said in a letter dated June 2 that was addressed to the national government’s Inter-Agency Task Force in charge of the virus crisis.
The correspondence was coursed through Philippine Sports Commission Chairman Butch Ramirez, Games and Amusement Board Chairman Baham Mitra and Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Bambol Tolentino.
All seven disciplines fall under PSC supervision and are POC regular members, but the PFF is priming to launch its professional Philippines Football League and seeks the GAB’s endorsement to the IATF to resume club training and kick off the competition.
“The primary aim of these protocols is to protect the health and safety of athletes, coaches and all others involved in sports, including fans and spectators,” stressed Juico, whose own association has already drafted overall guidelines under the “new normal.”
The former PSC chairman explained that there was a consensus among the NSA officials during the meeting that “the prolonged lack of training and practice sessions and actual competitions would take their toll on the competitive edge of the athletes to the detriment of the national interest.
“The almost total absence of competition would in turn undermine the momentum created by our success in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which the country dominated,” he said, referring to the overwhelming success of national campaigners who recaptured the overall championship of the regional games last December with a bumper crop harvest of 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze medals.
The athletics honcho, also the chairman of the Philippine Super Liga, pointed out that sports shutdown has had a detrimental effect on “the livelihood… of athletes and teams’ support staff of sports like basketball, volleyball and football, which have substantial fan and sponsorship bases that have in many instances drastically reduced.”
He said that in the same meeting, football head Araneta cited the fact that football leagues in South Korea, Vietnam and Germany had resumed so “if they can do it, why can’t we?”
“The group agreed that the pandemic will be with us for some time. Like all other committees and sectors, sports will have to learn to deal with it in an intelligent manner,” Juico pointed out. “The NSAs realized that a number of measures to be implemented will require some expense without any specific and definite way such expense can be recovered.
“If these measures, however, are not put in place, we will be left behind by the rest of the world. We are therefore compelled to act.”
During the Philippine Sportswriters Association forum last Tuesday, Ramirez said he was open to endorsing some of the proposals of the group to the IATF in the event that they pass the government sports agency’s master plan for “reintroducing sports in a COVID-19 environment.”
But Tolentino had reservations, especially the resumption of group sports training, saying it was too early for them because “it is better to be safe than sorry” later should an infection arise during the occasion.