PSC chief says sports will emerge slowly in postpandemic PH | Inquirer Sports
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PSC chief says sports will emerge slowly in postpandemic PH

/ 04:30 AM April 18, 2020
Butch Ramirez

FILE – PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

The Philippine Basketball Association is keeping its fingers crossed it can start a season by June. About the same time halfway around the world, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour plans to begin holding tournaments, minus spectators. Also in June, the US Tennis Association (USTA) plans to make a significant announcement about the US Open, looking at a schedule that will allow fans to be at venues.

But in a postpandemic Philippines, sports is expected to merge last from under the blanket of quarantine—or so says Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chair William Ramirez.

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Ramirez on Friday said he has no problem putting off spor­ting events much longer because games normally pack crowds that extrapolates the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“The virus crisis has no solution yet until the availability of vaccines,” Ramirez said. “You cannot risk the safety of these people. Between life and material things, it’s an obvious choice.”

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No spectators

The PGA Tour, though, has a solution for the crowds.

The PGA Tour laid out an ambitious plan on Thursday to resume its season the second week of June and keep fans away for at least a month, conceding that any return to golf depends on whether it can be played safely amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, was pushed back to June 11-14. Assuming golf gets the green light from government and health officials, the tour then would have an official tournament every week through Dec. 6 except for a Thanksgiving break.

“Our hope is to play a role—responsibly—in the world’s return to enjoying the things we love,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said. “But as we’ve stressed on several occasions, we will resume competition only when … it is considered safe to do so under the guidance of the leading public health authorities.”

PBA: Follow gov’t lead

Hereabouts, the PBA is hoping to get the ball rolling by June or “July at the latest if we hope to have two conferences,” said commissioner Willie Marcial.

But even that is hinged on several conditions.

“Most notable will be if government will allow mass gathe­rings,” Marcial said. “We’re not really looking at fans. Of course, it would be best if fans can watch the games. But what we’re looking at when we say mass gatherings is team preparations. When teams practice, they can gather up to 30 or 40 people easily. And there’s no social distancing there.

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“Will we be allowed to do that? We will follow whatever direction the national government says because our main concern right now is the welfare of people.”

Ramirez feels that any sports opening by June will be premature.

“I would not advise to reopen sports activities [and] endangering the lives of athletes and even fans,” he added.

The US Open is also loo­king at staging its tournament as scheduled. But organizers would want spectators in the stands if they push through with the tournament.

A decision on whether to postpone or cancel the US Open because of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected by June, the US Tennis Association’s new CEO said on Thursday, calling the prospect of holding the Grand Slam tournament without spectators “highly unlikely.”

On hold until July

“Obviously our ambition is to run the tournament. It’s the engine that drives our organization, our governing body. Having said that, that won’t be the driving factor,” Mike Dowse, who took over at the USTA on Jan. 1, said on a confe­rence call with reporters. “The driving factor will be the health and well-being of the players, the fans and our staff.”

“Time is on our side, at this point,” Dowse said, because the US Open is not scheduled to begin until late August. He also said the USTA is being advised by a medical advisory group that includes at least five doctors.

The tournament in New York City would be the next major championship on the tennis calendar; the French Open’s start was postponed from May until September, and Wimbledon was canceled altogether.

The men’s and women’s tennis tours are on hold entirely until at least mid-July, and one tournament in August already has been scrapped.

As for holding the US Open with no fans, Dowse said the USTA is “not taking anything off the table, but right now, I’d say that’s a highly unlikely scenario.”

“Things are fluid,” he added. “If the medical experts come back and say, ‘Here is a foolproof way of running a very safe tournament; unfortunately, it has to be without fans,’ we may reconsider and look at it.”

“The heart and soul of sports is nurturing values and character, and when repeated it becomes a virtue,” Ramirez said. “Virtues are the backbones of society.”

Reducing salaries

Dowse also discussed the USTA’s plan to oversee a commitment of more than $50 million to help tennis deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic at the grassroots level.

He said a survey conducted in March found that 85 percent of tennis facilities around the United States were closed because of stay-at-home orders, and he estimated that to be more like 90 percent now.

Dowse said the USTA is shaving more than $15 million from its budget by reducing salaries of its management and eliminating programs in player development and marketing.

Ramirez, meanwhile, said he’s confident Philippine sports will rebound after the crisis.

“Life in a society has an instinct to survive and recover lost opportunity. I pray that 2021 will be a better year once [the effect of] COVID-19 [has] diminished,” he said. —with a report from AP

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TAGS: COVID-19, lockdown, pandemic, Philippine Basketball Association, Philippine Sports Commission, Sports, William Ramirez
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