Post-coronavirus sport: Paul McGinley outlines the harsh realities
"The implications surrounding tournament resumption are nothing short of bewildering in their complexity for players, their teams and the tournament organisers."
Last Updated: 13/04/20 11:28am
Golf's main governing bodies revealed a busy autumn schedule ready for the return to competition, but Paul McGinley fears that initial post-coronavirus sport will be complex to organise ...
As difficult a task as it has been for the major golfing bodies to put together an adjusted schedule for this year, it certainly has to be seen as the easy bit in the context of their playing.
With the new dates now in place, how hopeful can we be, and how much can we dare allow ourselves to look forward to these events going ahead on the rescheduled dates and in the manner that they have always been played and supported by fans on site? I continue to try to be positive but, deep down, most of us would probably agree it is unlikely.
The R&A has probably done the shrewdest thing and cancelled The 149th Open until July 2021, but what of the other majors and the Ryder Cup?
The very early talks on the lifting of lockdown are revealing some of the realities we are likely to face. Government regulations are expected to continue to restrict and monitor large gatherings of people as we come out. Strict social distancing guidelines are likely to endure for a while yet.
As we begin to become accustomed to our own new rules of social engagement, many are likely to continue to be reticent to gather in large groups at least in the short term. With this in mind, it seems probable then that the playing of any big sporting event will, if and when played, be either behind closed doors, or even where players and those involved will have been quarantined and tested before play commences.
Ryder Cup stays on schedule
The Ryder Cup remains on course to be held in it's allotted week in late September after all main governing bodies in golf announced a revised schedule for 2020
We are told that this virus continues to spread at such a fast and dangerous rate that the world and its various economies have been forced into an induced sleep. It will surely slowly awaken and, initially at least, this will be under the guidance and policies of governments who are keen to get their economies moving again but, in doing so, not at the risk of their people's health.
We are advised of the likelihood of a second or third wave of the virus spreading in the autumn. Should this occur, we will want to swiftly put in place the strategies associated with lockdown to avoid rapid transmission rates which would pressurise the various health organisations.
We want to avoid this at all costs, so Government guidelines will naturally be cautious for fear of reigniting the raging pandemic that Covid19 currently is showing itself to be.
Another major challenge facing the recovery and staging of golf tournaments will be the regulations regarding international travel. We cannot know when countries will decide to open their doors without restrictions in place. We cannot know if passengers will be required to be placed in quarantine until testing at points of arrival is widely available.
The implications surrounding tournament resumption are nothing short of bewildering in their complexity for players, their teams and the tournament organisers. While post 9/11 sport returned to "normality" relatively quickly - albeit gingerly at the outset - this Covid 2019 pandemic is completely different. The return will be slower.
There has to be a lot more caution because of the complexity of controlling a worldwide virus that has demonstrated a capability of transmitting across all boundaries, genders and age groups at great speed.
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Of course, a vaccine or effective treatment will be the obvious game-changer. Until that happens, all things considered, the best chances that we can hope for are that sporting fixtures will initially be played either behind closed doors or for those playing, administering and the media to be placed in quarantine prior to participation.
This does not paint a desirable picture and is filled with difficulty but appears to be a likely scenario should any big sport wish to play again this year. In golf that leaves the other three majors, as well as the Ryder Cup, in a very precarious place. You could argue that the challenges at bay are not insurmountable but it is a big "if".
These are unique times. The world is likely to be a changed place when we come through this pandemic and if sport has to reinvent itself in the short term let us all prepare to embrace that for what it is. The financial models that all sports are based on can readjust.
The suspension of sport as it now stands is another matter: the pleasure that sport gives to us would be a boost that we could all do within these terrible times. As complex as these challenges are for all our sport let's be ready to embrace and enjoy our sports in whatever form they come.