News ID: 268393
Published: 0151 GMT April 29, 2020

Sports should start again 'from bottom up not top down': WHO official

Sports should start again 'from bottom up not top down': WHO official
CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP

Sports should return from the "bottom up not the top down" when the coronavirus lockdown lifts, according to a public health adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr. Brian McCloskey, who was public health director for London 2012, said community sport could be the first type of sport to return – but "bigger events will be a challenge this summer", BBC Sport reported.

Professional and semiprofessional leagues and competitions, as well as grassroots and amateur sports have been suspended since the middle of March.

Representatives of major sports, including football, rugby, cricket and horse racing, are meeting government medical experts this week to discuss plans to resume action.

McCloskey considers it "much easier" to see how a local sports club or ground could reopen safely, perhaps in late spring or early summer, but cast doubt on sport higher up the pyramid.

"The bigger the match, the bigger the competition, the more complicated those mitigating actions will have to be – and therefore the less likely it is that they can be done safely," he told BBC Sport.

"So, an event that involves lots of travel across the country, or between countries, is much more complicated.

"A local event – community football, community running – is much easier to see how that happens. Bigger events will be a challenge this summer."

Other sports, including Olympic and Paralympic sports, have also been involved in separate discussions with government about financial assistance and restart plans.

 

'Starting locally, like Parkruns'

 

McCloskey thinks that sports such as marathon running or tennis should start off at local level, before increasing in numbers and scale.

The London Marathon was one of a number of spring marathons to be postponed until the autumn.

"If you look at something like road running – if we go back to Parkruns – you could start those because they don't involve a lot of travel around the country, they involve local communities and you can manage how it's done," he said.

"In doing that, you can learn how marshalling can help with social distancing in a run.

"That then helps you work out: 'How can I do a city marathon?' And, ultimately: 'How can I get the London Marathon and Boston Marathon back up again?'"

 

Football's restart plans?

 

The Premier League is hoping to resume the season on June 8, as part of a plan dubbed "Project Restart". McCloskey said "it is possible" that will be achieved but added that contact sports, such as football and rugby, are "more difficult" in terms of trying to reduce risks.

FIFA's medical chief, Michel D'Hooghe, said he was skeptical about whether football could resume, and warned it could bring "life and death consequences".

“Football can only be possible if contact is possible again. Football remains a contact sport and contact is one of the first things everyone says that you should avoid.

“It’s still about social distancing. Testing is an important point but you have to repeat them (tests). If one of the players becomes positive, you have to put the whole group into quarantine. Is that a solution for a normal competition?” D'Hooghe asked.

McCloskey said that, although behind-closed-doors football would remove the risk of crowds transmitting the virus, there remained a risk regarding public perception.

"Not having big crowds going into and out of a stadium will make it easier to manage the risk, but you still have to work out how they get all of the officials in there, how you get the players in there, the trainers, the TV cameras.

"But obviously with smaller numbers it is easier to keep people separated and get them in and out easier. So that may be a way.”

 

 

 

   
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