Though the government’s return-to-sport safe-zone initiative has been received with welcoming arms by all sports and their organisations, the responsibility of this being carried out effectively has now been placed in the hands of the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) for each sporting discipline and all of the other stakeholders.

Brian Lewis, president of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) on Monday joined with the T&T Cricket Board (TTCB), the T&T Football Association (TTFA) and the National Association of Athletic Administration (NAAAs) in giving kudos to Minister of Sports and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe, who has spearheaded this return over the past month or so, however, he issued a call to national sporting bodies and all of T&T that this will not work without strict compliance, self-discipline and adherence to the COVID-19 countermeasures.

Lewis reminded all that COVID-19 is real, saying: “There is a risk and we have to mitigate these risks. The science is out there in terms of what needs to be done, what are the tools in the tool kit, so to speak, and it includes vaccination, masking, social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene, testing, contact tracing, and temperature checks etc. It is not something that the Trinbagonian culture of trying to find something around it will suffice.”

Minister of Sports Shamfa Cudjoe, following her release that confirmed the government’s decision to have sports in a safe zone on Sunday, sought to clarify certain questions today, saying the regulations began yesterday and will run for just over two months as a trial period.

She assured that when that period is over, decisions will be made as to whether it will be continued, expanded or stopped.

“The regulation now provides for registered and recognised national governing bodies and sport serving bodies to return to play.

It is a phased roll-out so we’re working with the registered groups first and allowing the general public to get a better level of vaccination.

It will allow us the opportunity to do some monitoring of who is vaccinated and who is not because, upon entry at the specific facilities, you’re going to be asked to show your ID and vaccination cards. We’re using the CPL template that was developed in T&T in 2020 and is now being used throughout the region and in many other countries around the world and we’re using some of the lessons we’ve learnt from other countries also.”

TTCB to use Compliance Officers

T&T Cricket Board president Azim Bassarath and his executives have been ahead of the game and have gone the extra mile to convince the government that they will ensure strict compliance.

Bassarath, who earned his fourth term in office ahead of local cricket, following last year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Elections, said his executive is in the process of training people to become compliance officers for every match of the coming domestic cricket league.

This he noted, will be followed by an all-out effort to do whatever is necessary to enforce the regulations are adhered to.

“The T&TCB has been very proactive in the sense that, it has agreed that for every game that will be played under the auspices of the TTCB, there will be a Match Referee/Compliance Officer at that venue, so that is good news. We can guarantee the minister of sports, we can guarantee the government that at every game that is played from a zonal perspective and a TTCB perspective, these people will be there to ensure that the teams, match officials and everybody follow the covid protocols to ensure that no protocols are breached and that we are going to enforce whatever has to be enforced to make sure that we adhere to the regulations of the government. We have already started putting things in place to have people trained to make sure that as soon as cricket starts in T&T we people will be assigned to these venues.”

Following the issuing of the release on Sunday, Basarath and his team have already scheduled a meeting at 8 pm tonight to have discussions and make decisions moving forward. The local cricket boss said that while he is excited to resume domestic cricket, he first has to take a look at the regulations to decide on how they move forward.

He said: “For a long time now, since November, we issued press releases indicating that the T&TCB had put everything in place to commence the sport in our beloved country. At the very first we indicated to the national population that we have agreed at the executive level that only vaccinated players will be allowed to participate at our tournaments and also only vaccinated officials will officiate at our tournaments. We were very happy with the news, concerning the resumption of sports in T&T. However, we are still awaiting the regulations. I haven’t seen the regulations as yet to indicate what are the facilities that they are indicating in the original release. With respect to what I have read in the release, it would indicate that the community grounds across T&T will not be approved for the resumption of sports, because the inclusion of the special facilities in the original release, poses some serious questions as we speak.”

NAAAs to add more admin work

George Comissiong, president of the NAAAs who is now in only his first term, said his administration will embrace the responsibility to ensure that track and field is conducted according to the ministry’s regulations.

In spite of the lockdown, track and field have been one of the only sports to have been in operation last year. To date, the sport has missed two weekends of action which Comissiong intends to make up for this weekend.

The local track and field boss confirmed that while they will have to do a bit more work to ensure that the regulations are adhered to, he noted that it will not be anything new for him and his administration.

“For us, it was excellent news, but we await clarification on one of two small areas. Training as we know it now, clubs must limit the number of persons for training activities to 10 at the different stadia. So there are slots during the day and clubs have to apply to train during those slots. They are limited to 10 persons but we don’t know if that would have changed overnight, so there is an issue there that’s linked to training. We expect and plan to keep our numbers, in terms of clusters of athletes, within 10 persons. With an eight-lane track that is alright, once we separate the heats and so on, and ensure that the athletes waiting to compete are properly socially distanced and so on, we don’t anticipate any problems.”

He explained: “It creates a little bit of administrative work on our path because in addition to all the covid provisions we have in place, the completion of the tracking form before entry, the sanitization and the temperature checks, it means we must now add verification of your vaccination status and then have you sanitize when you enter.”

Under Comissiong, the NAAAs has held over 13 events in 2021 at the Dwight Yorke Stadium and Hasely Crawford Stadium among other facilities. This Comissiong said this was done courtesy of an operations manual that guides the way they organise events.

Meanwhile, the T&T Football Association through its acting general secretary Amiel Mohammed said: “The Ministry of Sports and Community Development is very welcomed. We are now awaiting the regulations to review and then we would be in a better position to chart a course forward based on that, and how it aligns with our previous plans.”