By Grace Chingoma
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry, says the domestic Premiership can resume their activities as soon as they complete testing of their players and officials.
The top-flight leagues, for both men and women football, will also have to satisfy all the requirements, as laid out by the Sports and Recreation Commission.
What this means is for the ball to be in the court of the football leaders and their constituencies to just comply with the conditions and get the ball rolling.
The two main leagues will get the ball rolling before the greenlight is passed to the lower leagues, for them to also resume their activities.
Coventry also commended ZIFA for their prompt response, indicating they will adhere to a cocktail of measures, paving the way for the early resumption of domestic football.
She addressed a media conference in Harare yesterday, flanked by chief director, Benson Dube, and principal director Eugenia Chidhakwa.
“In terms of football, we have seen the good response from ZIFA that they have agreed to the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that were given to them, and all the testing regulations, and now it’s just a process of then looking at the timelines and when they can start,’’ she said.
“So, in terms of soccer, and the PSL and women’s league, it is really a matter of when they can first roll out, the first set of tests and the SOPs, and that was the same for all the national associations, as well as the gyms.
“In terms of timelines, it really could be as early as tomorrow, there might be some associations that have done their work and can start today.
“There will be some associations, and some gyms, that will be open by tomorrow. They have been working, already prepared, putting things into place.’’
The minister said spectators are still not allowed in the stadia.
“Let’s talk, for example football, we have already seen from the statement that they have agreed to the SOPs and they are now working on the resumption.
“It will be a staggered resumption, we will see our PSL and our women’s league going back.
“And, once they have a good handle on those, then it will creep down into the other levels of soccer.
“While we are very excited that we have been granted resumption of activities, we also still want to remain vigilant, and we want to ensure that we are not just fully opening up everything.
“There are no spectators allowed, I needed to clarify that point, that are we are still not allowing any spectators at this present moment.’’
She said ZIFA had requested that they should be allowed to test once, after every 30 days, but the Government wanted something which was more vigorous.
“The associations are working with SRC, which of the SOPs they can put into place, which are going to come at a financial cost, what is the capacity, in order of handling that,’’ she said.
“They will then discuss with the SRC, once SRC have got all that information they will bring it to the Ministry, and we will, obviously, discuss the way forward.
The Minister said associations and gyms should adhere to the standard procedures.
“We are very grateful, and very excited, that the resumption of all sporting activities, including the opening of gymnasiums, is going to occur,’’ she said.
“But, it will be done on a basis in which medium risk, and high-risk sport, will have to follow a set of operational guidelines, and protocol.
“The Sports and Recreation Commission made this announcement on Monday, so, the national sports associations are aware of the different protocols that are needed to be in place, and most of them have already agreed to all of those SOPs, for the safety of the athletes, and the support personnel.
“I am requesting that all gyms, pleaser to register with the SRC, so that we can update the gyms, as we move along, as we progress, especially when it comes to the SOPs.
‘’We want to work hand-in-hand, this is really a good achievement, this is something that we know the sport federations, the football clubs, the gym owners, have been requesting, and asking for.
“But, it comes with some responsibility, and those responsibilities are the standard operations procedures.
“We are just requesting all gyms to please get in contact with the SRC so that they can let you know what those SOPs are, and how best to follow them.’’
She said the operating times should be observed religiously.
“Just to reiterate that operating time, for all sport, is 6 am to 8pm,’’ she said.
“National Covid-19 regulations, we still have a curfew between 10pm to 5.30am, so please, do not break those operating times.
“What we will emphasise, and has been emphasised in the debrief from the Cabinet yesterday, is that anyone, any federation, or any gym, seen to be breaking the operating hours or the SOPs, will be closed immediately, and indefinitely.
“We will not have to tell you, how or when you will be reinstated, if you are breaking any of these regulations or time, you will be closed immediately, and indefinitely, and we will then work with you to figure out what the next steps are.
“Last year, we saw the resumption of some of the sport, and gyms opening, and we had quite a few people not working with us, operating outside of operational hours and curfew hours, again, this will not be tolerated, this time.’’
She said issues of funding, for associations who might find themselves facing challenges, will be dealt with, on a case by case, by the regulator.
“As Government, we know that there will be some associations who will need some financial assistance, and we will look at which ways we can then support them in that,” she said.
Last week the Ministry’s permanent secretary Thokozile Chitepo, told a parliamentary portfolio committee they were requesting a supplementary budget to assist national associations with sports resumption.
Today, the national associations are expected to present their oral evidence before the legislators, on their preparedness to resume sport. The Herald