Old Boys League crying ‘foul’ over directive from COVID-19 Management Unit
The organisers of the Old Boys League Football Invitational Tournament have left with more questions than answers after being given a directive to suspend all play by the COVID-19 Management Unit. After successfully restarting the tournament on November 7, with all prescribed protocols in place, they received orders from the government- appointed body to cease all operations on the eve of this past weekend’s game-day.
Speaking to The Barbados Advocate yesterday via telephone, a source close to the situation explained that after first halting play back in March when the pandemic first reared its ugly head, major intensive research and investments were made to ensure the smooth and safe running of the tournament for the final five match days. With the remainder of the tournament being played at Empire which allows for audience control – as there is one main entrance, the spokesperson stated that temperature checks, contact tracing, sanitisation and the proper wearing of suitable masks and face barriers were enforced by the over 20 persons employed.
Noting that there were other sports, such as volleyball, cricket and hockey, and other events such as pleasure cruises and bus-rides that were allowed to operate under less strict protocols than those being exercised by the tournament in question, the spokesperson said that it seemed a bit unfair that football was being treated differently. “It seems a little strange that our tournament can be suspended or put on hold and other events which involve contact as well are able to run. We understand that Brittons Hill have a tournament and hockey just had one playing on a smaller surface than us – eleven-a-side hockey – and that was able to run as well. It seems as though all football is being discriminated against. Why are the others running and we can’t? And we have, in this instance, a lot more protocols in place than other places have.”
After playing two games on the first weekend back out, the order to shut down came late on Friday afternoon, forcing the organisers to cancel two games set for Saturday and a couple of knockout fixtures for yesterday. With four match days remaining, it would be impossible to just cancel the rest of the tournament and award top honours to the current leaders as the battle for supremacy is very tight with thetop-three teams able to take home the title.
Praising the efforts of the machinery which has been keeping the island safe, the spokesperson went on to say that all stakeholders, including the players and employees, felt slighted by the call. “If you follow the evidence of the public health as well as the science, it suggests that we have no local spread and that the team has been able to pick up those folks who are travelling via airplane coming in and when they do get their second test, some unfortunate people are turning up positive and they are able to manage those at the isolation centres and so on. But yet there is no evidence of local transmission and that is exactly why they have allowed for sports to continue. But why target the Old Boys League Football Invitational Tournament after just one day of execution? It just seems a little strange. More questions to ask than answers.”
Citing the Official Gazette as the source of the organisers’ guidance on operating the tournament, the spokesperson said that it was now a game of wait and see on if they would be given the green light to complete the tournament. “They said they are uncomfortable with footballers playing. But if you say that, and that is not inside the Official Gazette and you say contact sports can continue, you’re conflicting yourself really, aren’t you? You haven’t specified that it’s football that you don’t want to play. You haven’t said that at all. We were guided by what we saw and that is how we ended up where we were. But then to be given a directive to shut it down, and we are not going to flaunt the law, if the person in charge of the task force is telling us that, we will follow that first and then we are going to try to see if we can fix it, if it needs fixing.” (MP)