Sunshine Tour

Sports Minister confirms golf being considered for return behind closed doors

Golf to return behind closed doors? (Getty Images)
Golf to return behind closed doors? (Getty Images)

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa says his department is considering allowing golf to return behind closed doors during the current Covid-19 enforced lockdown.

However, indications were that football (and by association as a contact sport, rugby) were still some way off getting the green light to resume any activity under the current State of Disaster.

Sporting activity came to a grinding halt early in March after the first traces of the novel coronavirus were detected in South Africa. In April, GolfRSA, the Professional Golfers Association of South Africa and the Club Management Association of Southern Africa wrote to Mthethwa pleading the case of golf to return without spectators.

Representatives from the three organisations also met with the minister via video conference last month, wherein they pleaded for the reopening of their facilities in order to save thousands of jobs.

Only 34% of clubs, they said, would be able to withstand the lockdown while providing full pay for staff, with the rest facing the possibility of laying off about 18 000 employees.

"There are others who have come to us and pleaded their case and golf is one of them," Mthethwa said in Monday's briefing.

"They motivated strongly that the nature of their sport is not a contact sport and in terms of the regulations - the metres between people - they fit in. It would be easier for them to adhere to [physical distancing]. We are looking into that."

While traditional footballing countries such as Spain and Germany have allowed their clubs to return to training, it appears South Africa's leagues could be some way off from returning to action.

Mthethwa said the sports, arts and culture department would rely heavily on the recommendations presented to them by the code's leading governing bodies, the South African Football Association (SAFA) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) before making a decision.

"Regarding football, we will be dependent on SAFA as the mother body of football in the country and the PSL, with the hope they will guide government," the minister said.

"I have been in contact with both the SAFA president [Danny] Jordaan and PSL chairperson [Irvin] Khoza and said to them ... I need their wise counsel as leaders in football on the reopening or softening of lockdown [regulations] with our risk adjusted strategy.

"We've convened meetings with both of them. Khoza and the Kaizer Chiefs chairperson, Kaizer Motaung, informed me that they are having a board of governors meeting on Thursday and they will come up with suggestions."

Meanwhile, government has handed out relief funds to 93 athletes from sporting codes such as sports played by people with disabilities, fencing, netball, triathlon, tennis, gymnastics, boxing, canoeing and football.

A total of 281 athletes had so far been approved for a portion - capped at R20 000 per person - of the R150 million relief fund.

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