Last week, all local sports organisations and athletes, just like many other people coming from other local industries, were eagerly following the press conference delivered by the Maltese Prime Minister, Minister for Health and Superintendent for Public Health to find out when organised sports would resume.
Athletes were eager to go back down onto the training pitches, sports associations and organisations were hoping to resume their respective sporting competitions, many of which were on the verge of being concluded.
Unfortunately, unlike other industries or services, the sporting industry was not given an indication on when it would be allowed to resume operations, and has still been left out in the dark till this day, much to the immense dismay amongst the sporting community.
The local sports community is comprised of dedicated athletes, some of whom are professional elite athletes, top knowledgeable coaches and thousands of administrators, many of whom are volunteers, who form part of the fundamental backbone of many clubs and organisations.
Together, these men and women dedicate endless hours to the local sporting industry, which also contributes towards the country’s economy, in order to ensure that sports in Malta can continue to advance and reach higher targets.
At the same time, such personnel strive to ensure that those who practice or participate in such sports activities to do so in a safe environment.
Owing to the COVID-19 virus, sports organisations and clubs have had to implement stringent medical protocols to ensure that their respective sports can continue to be played whilst keeping all participants safe, even if it meant that fans had to unfortunately be kept locked outside sporting stadia and additional costs had to be incurred.
Such announcement came at a time when the local sports industry has already been severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clubs have made significant losses on their budgeted income, sponsors were not given a full return on their investments and athletes found themselves deprived of the opportunity to be able to advance in their respective sporting careers as well as earn a living from the sport that they practice.
At the same time, thousands of jobs within the sporting industry were put at further risk owing to the uncertainty surrounding the resumption of organised sports in Malta.
Under the legal notice that was brought into force with the announcement of the partial lockdown on March 10, national teams are allowed to apply for an exemption from the Superintendent of Public Health.
As a matter of fact, some national teams have been successful in their respective applications.
Unfortunately, however, this only applies to a select few and does not cater for the majority involved in local sports industry.
As a result, whilst a national team athlete could train with their respective team-mates, at the same time such athlete is prevented from training with their respective local club.
Such a decision also impacts the physical condition that such athlete find themselves in, something which Malta national football team coach Devis Mangia commented on during Malta’s World Cup 2022 qualifiers.
The situation that the local sports industry finds itself in is one of an unprecedented nature, especially when in early March 2021, the Superintendent of Public Health published a pie chart showing that the spread of COVID-19 in sports was at an extreme minimal level.
One must bear in mind that sports has many benefits attributed to it, not just physical benefits but also economical, social, psychological, cultural and nutritional, all of which can be gained from by those who participate in sports as well as the economy as a whole.
The current prohibition of not allowing organised sports to be played is of an alarming situation. Such prohibition is serving as a detriment towards the future of the local sports industry, more so when Malta shall be shortly hosting the 2023 Games of the Small States of Europe.
Such prohibition and the uncertainty when same will be lifted comes at a time when sports clubs are struggling to find the necessary volunteers to help keep their club operating.
Added to that such volunteers fork out their personal money to keep such clubs afloat and at a time when Malta is dealing with high obesity rates amongst its population.
Of course, one cannot predict exactly what the future holds for the local sports community, however, one can only hope that they will receive the adequate support that they so desperately need.
To some, sports means everything; whether it is for their wellbeing or for them to make a living.
The authorities concerned should attempt at reconsidering the decision on not allowing organised sports to resume.
The authorities should seek to gather all the key stakeholders involved in the local sports community so that a compromise can be found towards the resumption of sports in the best interests of all involved.
Sports is for everyone to enjoy and for everyone to benefit from the benefits that it provides.