ISSA doubles down

ISSA doubles down

Says high school sports will resume only if safe to do so

By Paul A Reid
Observer writer

Thursday, July 02, 2020

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Keith Wellington, president of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), has doubled down while seeking to clear the air on Tuesday's announcement that it has approved plans for the resumption of high school sports competitions by mid-October, subject to Government approval.

The plans were released amid the uncertainties of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has claimed 10 lives while impacting over 700 Jamaicans since March.

With a number of sporting disciplines, including cricket and golf announcing protocols to restart competition after a global lockdown since March, ISSA said on Tuesday it was looking at early to mid-October to restart three sports ̶ basketball, netball, and football, but only with “Governmental approval and a safe, healthy, and secure environment for participants and stakeholders”.

However, there has been calls for ISSA to resist the temptation to rush back into competition and to err on the side of caution and maybe to forgo any contact sport for the rest of this calendar year, at least, until they can guarantee safer conditions.

ISSA had, based on the recommendation of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, cancelled the 2020 national boys' and girls' athletics championships in March, but some have questioned whether the governing body for high school sports in Jamaica was pushing ahead for financial gains at the expense of the health and well-being of the students and others.

Since May ISSA has undertaken a series of consultations with all the stakeholders - government, principals, the national Parents Teachers Association, coaches and medical practitioners - and Wellington said yesterday, “if anybody who is critical of the situation without properly analysing what we are saying, I would suggest that they review what we have said, think about what we have said. We are not saying that anyone must go out there and play, we are saying we have a responsibility to provide the opportunity and we are making the preparation so that if it is possible we can provide those opportunities”.

He sad it was “unfair” to describe their efforts as “undue haste” and that the proposed restart date should be taken in context. “If you look at what we have said, we have said that we are looking to restart competitions in mid to late October, which would only happen if schools resume in September.”

The principal of St Elizabeth Technical High School argued that, “As principals we have been asked to prepare schools for resumption, we have been asked to put in protocols to ensure that students can return to classes. We are working on the assumption that if all of those protocols can be in place and school can resume and students can be attending schools safely then we see no reason why they cannot compete in sporting competitions if we are able to also put in similar protocols for these sporting competitions.”

He added: “The risks involve where spectators are concerned. We are committed to ensuring that spectators are not involved unless it is absolutely safe to do so.”

The argument about money, he said, was unfounded, especially in football. “It is unfair to make an assumption that there is any issue of money [being a driving force for the restart] because we make absolutely no money from any of these sports, including football.”

“When we look at what we make from football and what we spend on football we spend more than 100 per cent of what we make from football because the sponsorship from football is also used to cover not just Under-19 Manning and daCosta Cup, but also Under-14 and the Under-16, so we don't have monies that we make from football that can be spent on other sports, so there is absolutely no money to be made from having the competitions,” Wellington told the Jamaica Observer.

“As matter of fact it is likely that we will have to go to our sponsors and discuss an arrangement where they can take up some of the costs or we will have to eliminate some of the things we normally do, to ensure that we can have the competition.”

As they have said before, Wellington reiterated that they would only push ahead with the playing of the competitions if the situation was safe. “All we are trying to do is to provide the opportunity for the youngsters and we have said it already clearly, that that opportunity will not be provided unless we believe it is safe to do so.”

A strident Wellington added: “We are hinging on the safety of the society based on the fact that if we are going to be having school where we have hundreds of students gathering on a campus and have them travelling to and from their communities in public spaces, we are saying that that would be an indication that we can manage a competition where we do not have large gathering, where we have players being isolated from any spectators, where we have protocols to ensure that even if we are not able to do the actual COVID-19 tests, but we are monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19, so I think when all is said and done we have made it absolutely clear that what we have done is to set a date that we would likely to be starting if things allow us to.”

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