All things being equal, the Penn Relays would have started today with thousands of Jamaicans from home and abroad making the trip to Philadelphia for the three-day event, and no doubt most would be expecting another “Jamination” by the high school teams.
The Penn Relays, which have been held 125 years without pause, has been a part of the Jamaican track and field schedule for just over 50 years, ever since a Kingston College team became the first Jamaican high school to travel to Franklin Field to take part in America’s longest-running track and field meet outside of the Olympic Trials.
But this year, like all meets that fell in the mid-March to June schedule, Franklin Field, which was expected to see over 100,000 paying spectators over the three days, will be quiet – and this scary situation could be the norm at many venues across the world for longer than we expect if a cure is not found for COVID-19 soon.
Organisers have been going ahead with plans for the next two years with the Olympic Games, World Athletics World Championships, the Commonwealth Games as well as the Diamond League, which some are expecting will be held later this year.
But with reports coming out of several Asian countries that some who had recovered from the virus have been reinfected and scientists now saying they are expecting a second or third wave, what amount of planning can we really do?
This week there was an article out of Japan expressing the fear that next July might still be too soon for them to host the world’s largest sports spectacle given, among other things, that it might not be safe for people to come together in large gatherings.
Even more immediate is the completion of the 2019-20 football season, and the start of the schoolboys’ football season set for September. Even as we take our cue from what is happening in the larger and more developed countries, our realities are far different from theirs.
We hear of plans for the leagues in Europe to end their seasons ‘behind closed doors,’ that is without spectators, and possibly go beyond the usual cut-off dates, with the permission of FIFA.
Would the RSPL follow suit if we are not able to ‘flatten the curve’ in a reasonable time, or would they admit a small number of spectators who could obey social distancing protocols?
While there are a few Premier League venues that could be used given their proper fencing and security, what about the lower leagues, say the Super Leagues and the parish leagues, or the schoolboy leagues which are more popular than club football?
Additionally, the absence of paying spectators would be a massive blow for our football system to absorb, and most clubs or schools would find it practically impossible to participate.
In the US college system and professional sports, TV revenue and sale of paraphernalia are often sufficient to take care of most of their financial requirements.
What will happen to those clubs and schools that have dormitories for their players to stay in during training periods? Will they be able to make adjustments and still be at their optimum?
There are so many questions and very little, if any, answers.
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