Picture: 123RF/TOMASZ TRYBUS
Picture: 123RF/TOMASZ TRYBUS

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa has approved plans by the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to resume training.

This paves the way for the PSL to conclude the 2019/2020 campaign, which was suspended more than three months ago on March 16 in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

The return to training‚ depending on compliance with the plan by the clubs‚ could be as early as this weekend for some teams‚ once the go-ahead has been given by a PSL executive committee (exco) meeting on Thursday.

In a statement on Wednesday‚ the ministry confirmed that Mthethwa has published and gazetted directions relating to Covid-19‚ to level 3 regulations and to the PSL’s plans.

The ministry gave a glowing report-back on the strength of the plans put in place by the PSL.

“The plans of the Premier Soccer League have been approved‚ considering the mitigation strategies and plans in relation to the level 3 risk-adjusted strategy in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic‚” read the statement.

It said Mthethwa had published gazette directions relating to Covid-19 level 3 regulations on May 28 which covered the resumption of sport activities.

“The different sport bodies are submitting their plans‚ indicating their state of readiness and the stringent health protocols they will implement in accordance with the prescribed regulations and directions.

“The plans have further been subject to analysis by health authorities‚ the NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases], who have recommended that the measures put in place by the organisation meet and in some instances exceed the required protocol for a safe return to training and to play in a biologically safe environment.”

In its submissions to the minister‚ the PSL said before returning to non-contact training all clubs must submit proof of Covid-19 testing‚ everybody must wear masks‚ all equipment must be sanitised and each player must use their own water bottle.

PSL senior manager Luxolo September said he could not yet comment on the development. “There is an exco meeting tomorrow [Thursday] and I am sure the PSL will be able to comment after that‚” September said.

The exco meeting on Thursday is set to ratify a communication and a go-ahead to the 32 Premiership and National First Division clubs that they may return to training‚ so long as all the stringent measures in the PSL plan have been put in place.

Some clubs have begun putting in place such measures in anticipation of the go-ahead‚ and appear to be able to resume almost immediately.

A copy of the National Soccer League (NSL) return to training directive that was submitted to the government indicates a staggered return to training‚ once all testing‚ sanitisation and quarantining measures have been put in place.

This will be conducted as:

“Week one: Staggered sessions with maximum of five outfield (excluding goalkeepers) — all non-contact.

“Week Two: Staggered sessions with maximum of 10 in two groups outfield players (excluding goalkeepers) — minor contact (for example, five vs five drills).”