Contact sports still in a limbo

Strict SOPs forcing sports facilities operators crying for govt’s help to remain in business


WHILE gyms and indoor sports facilities have reopened since June 15, contact sports are having a hard time adapting as social distancing is not a workable option.

For sports involving bodily contact like wrestling and futsal, the athletes are involved in bodily contact with teammates and opponents breathing the same air for six minutes or more.

This goes against public health officials’ emphasis on strict social distancing in order to combat the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

Sportizza Sdn Bhd GM Scott Lee said sustaining its facilities has not been an easy undertaking.

Sportizza is a multi-sports venue for badminton, futsal, indoor hockey, sepak takraw, netball, dodgeball, team building, sports camp, futsal leagues and many more.

Not only that the company had to take up a loan just to make sure they have sufficient cashflow, they even retrenched some of their full-time and part-time staff to stay in business.

“If the Movement Control Order (MCO) keeps extending to various stages and with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) such as only a maximum of eight players are allowed per court, not only will we be forced to close the business, I believe many other facilities will undergo the same situation like us.

“Though we are currently surviving, it only can last up to a maximum of four months, based on our business cashflow and expenses, especially the huge rental commitment,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Under the Recovery MCO (RMCO), only badminton or any other non-contact sports such as bowling and archery can resume.

“The SOPs give an impact directly on bookings and the number of people coming in. Some choose not to play at all. At the end of the day, the pandemic is still a threat to our business,” he added.

He hoped that the government will help and support the sports industry by giving aid in rental moratorium or waiver during the RMCO period.

“This would definitely be a huge help to those who are involved in the industry. We also hope the government will fully lift the movement restrictions with tighter SOPs.

“Otherwise, I’m afraid the futsal and football market will be badly impacted. Besides the sports business industry, it will directly impact the players and coaches, too,” he said.

Meanwhile, martial arts industry players are cautiously optimistic about returning to guide others to sharpen their self-defence skills very soon.

As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and boxing move ahead towards restarting, those involved are working to keep coronavirus cases to a minimum, hoping to avoid a pause in play or another shutdown.

A BJJ black belt and coach Aaron Goh plans to reopen his Leverage BJJ gym in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, in July by offering personal classes and small group classes that will focus on basics like solo drills.

Goh, who was supposed to compete in the upcoming World Master IBJJF Jiu Jitsu Championship in Las Vegas, US, this August, said it is not solely about the loss of income.

“I have to look at the potential losses of workshops, private lessons and self-defence team building for corporate companies which are enormous too.

“There are some 30 members registered with the gym and we are lucky that 80% of them have been willingly continuing to pay monthly fees to date, even when there are no classes. This team is like a family,” he told TMR.

Despite the gym having been closed since March 18, he never missed going there every day for the first two weeks when MCO was implemented.

“Everyone copes differently with hardship. I went there and did some cleaning to feel better. It was not easy, but I am sure it was not easy for everyone.

“Like most people, I am doing my best to sustain my beloved gym. For the past three months, I’ve been earning some money by helping my girlfriend with online sales and marketing,” he added.

Meanwhile, national futsal coach Chiew Chun Yong expressed his concern that his players’ performance might drop since there are limitations during training sessions.

He, who already started coaching with a smaller number of national futsal players, said the training is not easy and the limitations make it less effective.

“But it is still better compared to no training at all. Hence, I have come up with a few new methods to make sure the training sessions are workable with the SOPs.

“I hope by August or September, futsal players can resume training normally with no limitations,” he told TMR.

Since MCO, he has never stopped giving moral support to the team. For the first two months, he advised them to do physical activities at home.

“When the government allowed people to jog, I encouraged them to jog so that they will stay active. It is important for the players to constantly move.

“For the past three months, I have been doing online courses. I was invited by an Indonesia representative to do an online seminar to share information with them,” he said.