Clubs call for support as Premier Division marks anniversary of Covid-19 stoppage
Football marks an interesting anniversary this weekend, one year since the 2020-21 season was brought to a halt because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Interestingly, today’s Premier Division assignment will be a repeat of the last match played during the interrupted campaign ‒ a December 5, 2020 contest that saw PHC defeating North Village 3-1 at PHC Field.
In fact, all of this weekend’s fixtures will be a copy of the schedule on the fateful weekend, which saw the Bermuda Football Association pulling the plug on the Sunday games and eventually the season because of the effects of the outbreak.
However, since the sport’s return, clubs have struggled to pull out the support they had grown accustomed to prior to the pandemic, but Shervin Dill, president of the Club Presidents Forum, is hoping that current safety protocols will encourage greater attendance at matches.
“We’re near the end of the first half of the season and the observation has been the turnout from the spectators hasn’t been in large numbers,” said Shervin Dill, the North Village president, who also serves as chairman of the Club Presidents Forum.
In previous years a PHC-Village game would attract a large crowd but Dill accepts that things are different in these Covid-19 times.
“There are two reasons, really, we believe that people are concerned about Covid-19 and are reluctant to come out among crowds, and the other is the Safekey requirement where some people may not be (interested) to get a Safekey,” Dill said.
“For the first half of this season the numbers have averaged between 80 and 150 at games. We’ve all got different capacities at our fields and we’re nowhere near those capacity numbers.”
As part of their mitigation efforts, clubs are, among other things, conducting antigen testing for the players and officials which require them to be at grounds at least two hours prior to the start of matches.
“Such was the encouragement of the clubs to ask our fans to also get the online ticketing, as we’re trying to digitise that so that we have numbers and the names of persons in advance who will be in attendance,” Dill explained.
“We’re not exchanging too much money at the gates in order to make it an even more safer environment. I can say on behalf of the clubs that we’re doing everything to keep the environment safe.
“We’re doing the testing of the players two hours prior to the game with the antigen test and it has been complete co-operation from the players and officials. The BFA has assigned to us a health commissioner for the testing of the players and we also have a match commissioner for the games.”
Dill added: “It’s going well and I’m happy to say it is a very safe environment, particularly with the players and officials getting the test.”
The official also shared that players and officials enter grounds through a separate gate from the fans, where possible and remain in separate ‘bubble’.
“We have persons there to certify that we are doing things correctly,” Dill explained. “It’s working out quite nicely as far as the organisation of it and we’re hoping that the numbers (of spectators) are going to increase.
“We’re really happy that the players and officials who are in close contact with each other are getting the pre-test prior to the match, whether they are vaccinated or not. That makes the environment even safer.”
Dill is hopeful crowds will be able to increase in the coming weeks.
“We’re happy that it is a very safe environment and we are encouraging people to do what’s necessary in order to come to the matches because we’re looking to have the numbers increase for the second half of the season,” Dill said.
Goals have been aplenty in the league so far, with the Premier Division teams alone scoring 90 goals in 26 matches.
PHC are second in the table, five points behind leaders Dandy Town but with a game in hand, while Village are fourth after two opening wins were followed by losses in their last two outings.
On Sunday, Devonshire Colts, third, host Town at Police Field, while X-Roads host Robin Hood at Garrison Field.
St George’s take on Somerset Eagles at Wellington Oval and bottom team Southampton Rangers clash with Somerset Trojans at Southampton Oval.