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Protocol is very demanding, says MFA Medical Officer

The Malta FA last week announced that it had presented a medical protocol to the health authorities should football return next month. Valhmor Camilleri spoke with Dr Kirill Micallef Stafrace, the MFA Medical Director, who gave an insight of what principles will be in place to ensure the safety of players and officials…

The Malta Football Association has been working hard in the last few weeks to ensure that once the health authorities give their green light so that the BOV Premier League and the FA Trophy can be completed, everything will be in place for the ‘Beautiful Game’ to return to our stadia.

To this end, the Malta FA Medical Commission, spearheaded by Dr Kirill Micallef Stafrace, has prepared a medical protocol that was presented to the Superintendent of Health Charmaine Gauci.

The document gives a detailed description of the number of steps being undertaken by the governing body to ensure it guarantees a safe environment to all players, technical staff and officials present in the stadium.

Contacted by The Sunday Times of Malta, Dr Micallef Stafrace said that they have been monitoring the situation since the start of the pandemic and through the medical protocol they are endeavouring to minimise any health and safety issues.

“The Malta FA’s Medical Department has been involved in monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic from the moment coronavirus cases began to multiply in the north of Italy,” Dr Micallef Stafrace said.

“Initially, since a number of national team players and technical staff play or hail from this region it led to a complex quarantine scenario upon their return to Malta in consultation with the health authorities.

“Following this, the Medical Department advised that the national leagues should be postponed immediately, even before the government announced a total ban on public events and sports activities.

“Regarding the resumption of training and the leagues, the Medical Department, Technical Centre and Match Operations Department have been in close contact with their colleagues in Europe and worldwide on the best way forward, logistically, economically and especially from a health and safety perspective.”

Dr Micallef Stafrace said that when writing this protocol, the Medical Department took into account the prolonged stoppage of the league and team training.

Added to that there is also the likelihood of congested fixtures, the summer weather and other pertinent issues.

“The medical protocol takes into account the physical preparation of the teams, guidelines for the organisational structure and hygiene precautions in the stadia,” he said.

“It centres on three principles mainly. The first is dividing the stadium into different zones with access to definite people only and everybody will have to stick to a strict time-table.

“The second was capping the maximum number of people present in the stadium and finally ensuring the football players are medically cleared to play.

“We have also proposed that the fixture schedule will allow for adequate sanitisation of all the venues between matches and to be able to do so we have proposed that no more than one match per stadium is scheduled on a daily basis.

“Furthermore, we recommend ample use of temperature monitoring of all individuals at entry point, the availability of hand sanitisers in various locations and the use of face masks throughout for staff and others who will be authorised to attend.”

Dr Micallef Stafrace confirmed that the protocol has now been presented to the health authorities and are awaiting for a definite answer from the government on whether football can restart its activities in June.

Dr Micallef Stafrace said the premise undertaken in developing this medical protocol was its viability within the constraints the MFA have to work with.

“It is very demanding, but no compromise with health-related measures can be made,” he said.

Financial costs

One cause of concern by the Premier League sides, has been the fact in order to implement the medical protocol, the clubs will have to face an added financial burden.

Asked whether he felt Premier League clubs could afford such protocol, the MFA Medical Director said: “The costs to implement this medical protocol are substantial.

“Certainly it calls for the contribution of all stakeholders and the inevitable help of the government to support the association in implementing such protocol.

“As to the clubs, these will need to be guided and assisted, since the medical set up at club level is surely not fully equipped to implement all operating standards.”

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