Hygiene standards in sport will be much higher post-COVID-19

Hygiene standards in sport will be much higher post-COVID-19

Saturday, May 23, 2020

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SPAIN'S football coach, Mr Luis Enrique gave people reason to laugh over recent days.

Like many other football lovers, Mr Enrique watched on television as the top German football league, the Bundesliga, reopened before empty stadiums. Spectators were absent because of social/physical distancing rules and the need to restrict gatherings to avoid spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Said Mr Enrique: “[Playing without fans] is sadder than dancing with your own sister…I watched the German football and it's a sad sight. You hear the [players'] voices, you even hear the insults…”

Yet he couldn't deny the value of a return to competitive football, even in such circumstances: “…it's a business that generates lots of money, and even if the spectacle is a long way from that when there's fans, it can help in dealing with the [public] confinement [caused by COVID-19 restrictions]”.

Beyond all that, the need for the utmost care to be taken, as competitive sport restarts, has been brought close to home with news that Jamaican defender Mr Adrian Mariappa, who plays in the English Premier League, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Curiously, Mr Mariappa, who apparently was showing no symptoms up to midweek, has no idea how he contracted the disease.

“Ever since I got my positive result back on Tuesday I've been scratching my head to try to work out how I might have got coronavirus. It was a big surprise because I haven't really left the house, apart from some exercise and the odd walk with the kids,” he was quoted as saying.

Mr Mariappa's experience underlines the very thin line sports administrators and national authorities are walking as they attempt to do lucrative, live, spectator-less televised sport, without compromising the health of competitors, officials, support staff, media personnel, et al.

Consistent and regular testing, mask-wearing, social distancing and other such protocols apart, great attention will have to be paid to strictly maintaining new hygiene standards.

Hence, the decision by global cricket administrators, the International Cricket Council (ICC), to ban saliva as an aid to shining of the cricket ball. COVID-19, we are told, is readily transmitted via saliva.

For those who are wondering, bowlers and fielders have found, down the years, that keeping one side of the cricket ball shiny and the other side rough causes it to swerve and swing through the air more than would otherwise be the case, making life more difficult for batsmen.

Cricketers are being advised to use sweat as an alternative to saliva. Conventional wisdom is that sweat poses no danger in terms of spreading the dreaded virus.

At a wider level, spitting and emptying the nostrils on the field ugly habits athletes have been excused for in the past will now be frowned on. We expect that other practices such as footballers exchanging shirts at game's end will also stop.

We feel certain that in competitive sport some of those habits previously accepted as a matter of course won't return, even after the taming, if not total defeat of, COVID-19.


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