British & Irish Lions

SA sports fans back in stadiums? It's a matter of life and death, says Mthethwa

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FNB Stadium (Gallo)
FNB Stadium (Gallo)

The severity of a predicted third coronavirus wave and the advice of health experts will shape when the government decides to allow South African sports fans back into stadiums. 

That was the summation of an answer given by Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa on the issue on Friday.

Mthethwa addressed media at a press briefing outlining Cricket South Africa's (CSA) new administrative structure, but he was asked a question about when he expected fans to be allowed back into stadiums. 

The Premier Soccer League continues to be played behind closed doors while, this weekend, rugby's Rainbow Cup will get underway in the same environments. 

It is a particularly desperate situation for SA Rugby, who are trying will all their might to ensure that fans are allowed inside stadiums for the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour to be staged in July. 

SA Rugby are motivating for 50% attendances at the matches - there are five tour matches and three Tests against the Springboks scheduled for the tour. 

While Mthethwa acknowledged on Friday that those discussions are being considered, he emphasised that the government would be guided by the current coronavirus climate and by health professionals before making any decisions. 

"This time around, with everything we do we are guided by health protocols, epidemiologists and so on. Those are the people who are guiding us now," Mthethwa said. 

"It's not a matter of a minister of sport saying fans can go back. What if that becomes a super spreader?

"We are guided here and, in this guidance, we are informed that between May and July we are facing a possibility of a third wave.

"That should guide us. We can't, in the midst of a third wave, just get people and go and kill them.

"Both the creative events sector and the sporting sector have come together and put together a plan.

"When it comes to rugby and the British & Irish Lions tour, for instance, they are proposing that we get at least 50% of the spectators back to stadiums. That is being looked into, but it must answer the question: If you take FNB Stadium, which is 90 000 people, and you say 50%, which is 45 000 people, how are you going to ensure that it is not a super spreader?

"Those questions have to be answered.

"We do not decide as individual departments of sport or tourism ... we are guided by the health situation.

"These doctors are telling us that we are going to be facing the storm of a third wave, so what do we do? Must we say that, regardless, people must go and flock to the stadium? Will we be able to pay when they die? No."

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