Safety the name of the game, say ISSA top brass


Safety the name of the game, say ISSA top brass

Observer writer

Sunday, June 21, 2020

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The resumption of schoolboy football later this year will depend on whether or not it is safe to do so and the decision will be driven by consultation with parents, says top executives of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) as they continued to explore the possibilities to have a season as the country continues to work measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Keith Wellington, president of the organising body for sports at the high school level, and Linvern Wright, chairman of the daCosta Cup football committee, said on Thursday they were consulting with all stakeholders, from government to parents, whether it would be safe to play football or not and the steps they were taking to ensure the safety of all.

Both men were part of a virtual meeting hosted on the Zoom platform, which was held in conjunction with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) who were represented by a number of their top executives led by President Michael Ricketts. The Ministry of Sports was represented by special advisior Allie McNab.

Wellington said ISSA would provide the opportunity [for play], but said the ultimate decision would have to come from the parents.

He pointed out at the start of the meeting that no decisions on the playing of the competitions would be made at the meeting, which was one of several consultations that were being done, but rather it was a “fact sharing” one designed to assist ISSA to make better decisions.

Responding to concerns from a coach about exposure to the very contagious virus in a contact sport during the pandemic, Wellington said his organisation is awaiting Government's expected detailed protocols that were being developed for sports.

“From ISSA's perspective, we will ensure it is the parents who will make the final decision as to who will play,” Wellington noted.

He added: “ISSA will not be forcing anyone to play football. We will provide an opportunity, if and when it is safe to do so, but we will also ensure that we will be indemnified by the decisions that will be taken by parents to allow their children to play.”

Another concern that Wellington responded to was the disparity in the level of resources available to different schools and whether some would not be able to take part in any sporting events given the heightened expectations and responsibilities that will be placed on the institutions.

“Where we are at ISSA as it relates to the start [of all competitions] is that we would have already taken a decision that will not start our competitions in September as we normally do... we normally start the very first weekend of school and we have already taken the decision that we will have no competitions in September,” he said.

“What we have been trying to do is to liaise with our various stakeholders to get information as to how we can function during the period and this is a part of that process, we are not in any undue haste, we want to make sure that we understand that the priority is going to be the health and safety of the students and the communities in general,” Wellington added.

The St Elizabeth Technical principal said, “We understand that there may also be some fallout in terms of which schools are going to be able to compete under the conditions”.

“It is a discussions that is ongoing with us as principals. We are aware of the differences in capabilities of our schools and we want to ensure that each student will get a fair opportunity under the circumstances so there are things that we may have to change from how we normally function but all of those will be informed by what we learn as we go along,” said the ISSA boss.

Things could change in the next three months before the expected start of the football season.

“It's important to note that as every one has stated that things are dynamic and things that were acceptable today might not be acceptable tomorrow and vice versa,” Wellington said.

Wright, who is principal of William Knibb Memorial, said: “Consultation has been our watch word and ever since May we have been talking informally and it evolved into more formal talks in recent times.”

He added: “Some of the things that we are contemplating is that if we are going to be going forward... is that we are going to have a delayed start time...because the kind of planning and consultation necessary to ensure that we have it as best as we can would necessitate our holding levels of consultation that would allow us to ensure that the meticulous planning needed would be done.”

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