Debate continues to rage about how soon sports in Uganda will resume. And the uncertainty however could to be long.
All sports activities were halted after the government enforced a lockdown with restrictions on all public gatherings as a way of curbing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the lockdown that started in March has been eased, restrictions on public gatherings remain.
The national motorsport governing body Federation of Motorsport Clubs of Uganda (FMU) is forging a way on how best to return to action amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, it will not be their sole decision to make.
The National Sports Council (NCS) which oversees sports federations in the country recently sought to involve sports heads in designing standard operating procedures for sports.
That is certainly with the assumption that sports could resume anytime.
Motorsport was graded as a low risk sport.
FMU has since shared its detailed standard operating procedures that they believe will be executed to deliver risk-free events upon resumption.
Among the operation procedures stated include; holding events in full compliance with the government, Ministry of Health, and Police requirements. The federation must implement the use of COVID-19 safety guidelines of social distancing, mass gathering control like wearing of masks, and hand washing.
Majorly though is that competitions will be closed to spectators with only officials and competitors.
The unprecedented changes are being received differently. Much is however left to ponder on whether FMU’s guidelines are realistic.
Does FMU or its clubs have the capacity to impose the required procedures?
Holding a successful risky free event will involve logistical, ethical, and legal issues to be worked on.
Some of these issues must be bargained between the federation, organizing clubs and competitors as they are all important parties in staging an event.
Motorsport events (both rally and motocross) will automatically raise not less than 100 people in one place.
A rally event alone with the smallest entry of fifteen crews will consist of two competitors, a service team of six people each, around 30 time and safety marshals plus ten officials. That is a big crowd considered risky enough.
FMU must exhibit the capacity to test all persons involved in an event to ensure a safe and health event for all.
With COVID-19 causing financial constraints on not only competitors but also sponsors, this leaves organizing clubs with some decisions to make. To commit to organizing an event with limited resources will be calamitous.
Two-time national rally champion, Ponsiano Lwakataka who as well doubles as an event organiser feels the move to return to action is so demanding.
“We all want to return to action and see the championship continue. But the conditions are not in our favour at all as long the pandemic still exists.
“The guidelines the federation shared are good on paper but not practical since they are all put in the hands of the club. Clubs may not be able to meet all the requirements,” he says.
For some, it’s a matter of time. Probably, when there is an all clear.
UMOSPOC Vice president Justin Mungoma believes action return but only if.
“We need to ensure the country is stable and there no more cases.
“Motorsport is a contact sport. Probably motocross can somehow handle the guidelines but not a rally event with all its demands, social distancing and all other requirements would be hard to meet.”
UMOSPOC hosts the penultimate championship race in October. Preparations must be on by now to meet the organizing standards.
“For my case, if we reach August without any case, I would be glad to organize my event. But at the moment, it is impossible,” Says Mungoma.
With the cry already out, the possible cancellation of the season seems a better decision at least in the opinion of Lwakataka.
“They should just decide on canceling the season. If the federation cannot source money and bail out the clubs, then few will be able to host these events and time is running out.”
While Uganda motorsport resumption is still debatable, border neighbours Kenya and Tanzania have already set tentative dates.
Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) plan to hold events closed to spectators on private farms in September.
In Uganda, even with stipulated operation procedures, the final decision on resumption to sports remains fully with the government.
For FMU, the wait goes on. But it will certainly be a race against time to fix championship events as of when there is a green light.