• Give us back our freedom and our sports stadiums

    Give us back our freedom and our sports stadiums

    Someone with authority and influence in South Africa, please end the madness and get us back into our sports stadiums and the freedom to choose to go to matches, writes Mark Keohane.

    Where are the legal challengers from within the South African professional sporting community to challenge the government’s insistence that spectators still cannot attend sporting events?

    Where are the clever people in this country to make a nonsense of what is blatantly a nonsense ruling?

    So much has been determined under the mask of Covid, but other agendas have been shown to be the driver behind so many decisions. One only has to think of the smoking ban, which is now never a topic of discussion.

    And no, I am not a smoker, but the rationale behind shutting down the sale of cigarettes had no substance because if it did, the status quo would have remained.

    Professional sport has taken a commercial beating in South Africa in the past 18 months and every time light should be cast on the situation, a door closes to keep everything dark and everyone in the dark.

    I’ve written a few columns bemoaning a situation where thousands are allowed free-flow through shopping malls every day, with no restriction on social distancing, with no obvious control of who touches what, who gets sanitized and who may or may not be sneezing and coughing all over the place.

    The restrictions of Level 1 allow for public gatherings of up to 2000 people and restaurant capacities have been improved, with most of these restaurants being indoor establishments.

    But up until now there has been a blanket ban on sporting events – events that would be played outdoors and in what amounts to a space far healthier, safer and less risky than a crammed restaurant or pub.

    I’ve seen people at pubs in the past month watching sports events that are elbow to elbow and squashed for movement.

    What is risky about accommodating spectators at a 50 000-seat stadium, with reduced capacities that ensure social distancing and that accommodate blocked off sections? I’ve asked this question over and over but have yet to get a response.

    More than three million people in the Western Cape have been vaccinated. Why is there still a ban on attending sporting events and why is there such a draconian attitude towards wanting to let fans back, with the PSL officials being told that when spectators return the initial number can’t exceed 1000. However, an outdoor gathering can have 2000.

    Any sporting event gives the comfort of structure, both in control and environment.

    Allow the vaccinated in and allow sports fans to start cheering and living again.

    Allow the respective professional sporting codes to breathe again commercially and give their investors and sponsors equal comfort that everything being done is solution based and not a carry on of a Covid situation that started 18 months ago, yet is still being treated in the same light as it was 18 months ago.

    It is a given that we all have to learn to live with Covid, but the operative word here is ‘live’.

    Professional sports are bleeding and unless the bleeding is stopped, some may never recover.

    This is not a time for Elastoplast. Professional sport has to be resuscitated and people have to be allowed to make the choice to attend sporting events.

    These professional sports organizations and clubs will put in place all measures to ensure a safe experience, or as safe as possible in the current world we live in.

    Speaking for myself, I will be way more comfortable going to the Cape Town Stadium to watch a soccer or rugby match, or Newlands to watch a cricket match than I ever feel when I am in one of the Western Cape’s many shopping malls.


    Article written by

    Keo has written about South African and international rugby professionally for the last 25 years