Coronavirus scare: Suspend league or play in empty stadia

Author: Peter Sarbah
Dr Prince Pambo - We can't take risk
Dr Prince Pambo - We can't take risk

Renowned sports physicians, Dr Prince Pambo, has advocated strongly  the suspension of the Ghana Premier League to enable the country deal with the threats posed by the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which has resulted in a worldwide suspension of major sporting competitions.

He says COVID-19 poses a real and present danger in Ghana for which the Ghana Football Association must, as a matter of urgency, follow steps taken by other major sports regulatory bodies who have suspended football leagues and other sporting activities until further notice to enable then to contain the spread of the virus.

Last week, football’s world governing body and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) suspended upcoming competitions and urged football clubs and their member associations to take steps to prevent further spread of the virus. Subsequently, the Italian Serie A, English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and other leagues have been suspended in the wake of the imminent danger.

Yesterday, Dr Pambo -- a member of CAF’s Medical Committee -- told the Graphic Sports that the growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ghana made it imperative for the FA to act now by drawing lessons from FIFA, CAF and other major sporting franchises who had been suspended.

He said since football competition brought together thousands of people within close proximity, it was a fertile vehicle for the spread of the virus.
His call of a suspension of Ghana’s topflight follows a similar suggestion earlier by the founder of Premier League side, King Faisal FC, who said last week that the GFA must consider suspending the league or cancelling the season altogether in view of the threat by COVID-19.

Dr Pambo maintained that playing the league with supporters in attendance was too high a risk for the football authorities to toy with as it would put further strain on the healthcare system, which is still grappling with the increasing number of confirmed cases.

He suggested that if the FA considered a total suspension of the league as too expensive an option, then the best and safest alternative was for the competition to be played behind closed doors as happened in some matches in Europe last week.

“If the FA is unable to suspend the league, then I’ll suggest that all clubs must be made to camp their players and officials in one place to reduce contact with others, regular medical checks must be carried on all players and officials in case some of them begin to show symptoms.

“We must ensure that players and officials drastically minimise interactions with the general public, hence the suggestion that we camp all of them at one place,” Dr Pambo explained to the Graphic Sports.

In addition, he advised the GFA to make it a policy that all players and officials undergo mandatory temperature checks and have their hands sanitised before they enter the dressing room for matches.

Meanwhile, some Premier League clubs have indicated their readiness to suspend the league as medical experts consider advising the Ghana Football Association to temporarily ban all football matches in the country due to the Coronavirus scare.

The Public Relations Officer of Asante Kotoko, Kennedy Boakye Ansah, told the Graphic Sports yesterday that despite the intensive education they had taken their players through, they would have no issues if the league was suspended.

“We have not taken any decision yet, we’re still monitoring the situation but if the need arises to suspend it so be it because it will be in the supreme interest of Ghanaians” he observed.

The CEO of Ashgold , Frederick Acheampong, shared similar sentiments and admitted that it was only medical experts who could determine whether continuing the league posed danger and potential spread of the virus.

He was of the view that because the local league did not involve the mass transportation of fans as against what pertained in other jurisdictions, it would be too premature for the league to be terminated, especially at a time when it was gathering momentum.

“Experts will determined and see the danger it poses because in Ghana people don’t patronise it (the matches) very much. Other jurisdiction people travel in masses to go and watch games and that is why their governments have suspended the league,” said Mr Acheampong, who is a member of the GFA’s decision-making Executive Council.