The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has affected sports activities across the world. Major sporting events both at national and international level had to be cancelled or postponed due to the widespread pandemic. After months of suspensions of sporting events around the world, the sports industry is slowly rebooting and athletes and teams are gradually gearing up to play. 

While some sporting events are being staged behind closed doors, some countries are witnessing a wider reopening of stadiums and spectators are being allowed to attend select sporting events. As professional leagues return to sports, sports associations must follow extensive safety guidelines and coronavirus prevention measures while organizing sports programs. Below are a few tips on how you can make your tournament safe in the midst of a pandemic. 

Considering the risks: 

  • Individual sports vs team games: Track and field events, sports car or bike racing, tennis etc. may be safer sports than team games. Even when teams come together, organisers should allot different time slots for practice to reduce the risk of Covid-19. 
  • Indoor vs outdoors: The pandemic spreads a lot faster in an enclosed area compared to the outdoors. Sports events organisers should prefer outdoor venues or well ventilated stadiums.
  • Duration of each event: Sports with limited exposure to others is a lot safer than those which go on for hours. 
  • Distance between the players: Players can maintain distance with each other in sports like athletics, golf, cycling and so on. In basketball or wrestling, players have more contact.
  • Face mask: Although players on the field may not be able to wear masks, team members in the dugout, coaches, support staff, officials and the ground staff should wear masks at all times.
  • Equipment: Players are at greater risk of spreading Covid-19 in sports where they share equipment like football or rugby.
  • Spectators: Whether it is in an indoor sports arena or a larger stadium, it is best to avoid a huge number of spectators from gathering. A large crowd may trigger the spread of Covid-19. 

Safety measures to be undertaken while organising sports events: 

  1. Personal hygiene – During pandemic times, personal hygiene has become more vital than ever. Every player participating in the event should sanitize his/her hands, equipment, gear and clothes frequently to prevent carrying any kind of infection. 
  2. Avoid contact among players – Players should avoid hugs, hand shakes, high five and adopt a more restrained way of greeting. Sharing food or drinks with team mates should not be encouraged and social distance should be maintained in the dugout or dressing rooms. 
  3. Maintain physical distancing among fans – Sports events organizers should strictly keep social distancing in mind when planning and organizing the seating in order to control the transmission of the virus. The seating should be arranged in a manner such that spectators maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or more from people belonging to other households. The organizers must be particularly careful about crowd management in areas such as parking lots, entrance and exit, ticketing, restrooms etc to reduce the opportunity for transmission. Families can be allowed to sit together. 
  4. Limit the number of spectators at matches – The larger the gathering, the higher the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at sporting events. So the organizing committee must limit the number of people who can attend the sporting event to reduce the risk of transmission. 
  5. The sporting events should be staged outdoors – Using a single venue or staging events outdoors, as opposed to a closed indoor setting, poses a lesser risk of exposure than outdoor events, according to the WHO. Hence the organizing committee should try to stage sporting events outdoors. 
  6. Elderly people should be specially considered – Since older people and those with underlying health conditions are at a greater risk of severe disease following infection from COVID-19, their attendance could be restricted in sporting events. 
  7. Disinfect equipment and surfaces – Frequently touched surfaces and sports equipment should be disinfected and sanitized regularly. Whenever a previous group exits the facility, the cleaning staff must clean and disinfect the facility between uses. Besides this, the parking lots and restrooms should be frequently cleaned and disinfected. 
  8. Players and fans must be screened – The sports authorities and management must use proper screening methods for screening the players, staff and fans. Temperature monitoring and screening must be done at entrances. 
  9. Avoid using stamps and stickers – Usage of wrist stamps and stickers upon arrival must be avoided to reduce the chances of contact. Rather one can use QR codes for contactless identification. 
  10. Wear masks – Besides keeping the necessary distance from people, spectators must wear a mask and face cover at all times to lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure during the sporting event. 

The pandemic has redefined the way we play any sports. But with the right awareness, diligent planning and careful execution, one can organize sporting events safely and breath new life and positivity into a stressful world.