SINGAPORE: The current season of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) will resume on Oct 17 after an almost seven-month absence, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) announced on Friday (Oct 9).
Spectators will not be allowed. Instead, fans can watch the matches on livestreams and selected broadcast channels, said MCCY.
The SPL was suspended on Mar 24 because of COVID-19.
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In line with MCCY's plans to resume the SPL in October, full squad training has been conducted since Sep 1 with safe management measures in place.
This is to help teams gear up for competition following the "extended downtime", the ministry said.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong said he is "thrilled" that the season is restarting and encouraged Singaporeans to catch the footballers in action online.
"This is a significant milestone in the progressive and safe resumption of sport activities in Singapore.
"MCCY, Ministry of Health (MOH), SportSG and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) have worked hard to develop the necessary safe management measures, so that the players and public can get their football fix once again," said Mr Tong.
He added that while fans may not be able to watch the matches live at the stadiums, their support on the livestreams will mean a lot to the clubs.
ROSTERED ROUTINE TESTING FOR PLAYERS AND REFEREES
As part of the final preparations, players and match officials were swabbed on Oct 4 as a precautionary measure. All 223 personnel have since tested negative for COVID-19.
"Therefore, MCCY has given the green light for league matches to resume from Oct 17, 2020, with strict safe management measures in place," said MCCY.
MCCY and SportSG have also worked closely with FAS to develop a set of safe management measures so that the SPL matches can resume in a safe manner.
This includes keeping the number of players and officials involved in each match to a minimum and under 100. They will also be segregated into five zones within the stadium.
The arrival and departure timings of the players and officials will also be staggered, from up to five hours pre-match to an hour post-match, to avoid bunching at entrances and other key areas, as well as to prevent interaction between the different zones.
All personnel in the stadium are required to wear masks and observe safe distancing of at least 2m from one another.
Only the 22 players and four match referees on the field of play are exempt from wearing masks as they are taking part in strenuous physical activities.
This group, including substitutes who may be deployed, will have to go through fortnightly rostered routine testing. This is because they will be unmasked and likely to have prolonged close contact during the matches, said the ministry.
The testing will also ensure that any COVID-19 positive cases among the group will be detected to prevent any further transmission.
"MCCY and SportSG will continue to work closely with agencies, partners and the sports community to create a safe environment for Singaporeans to resume more sporting activities in the near future, as well as to enhance our measures to support a thriving and resilient sport sector," said MCCY.
FAS said it welcomes MCCY's announcement on the approval to resume the SPL, and that the League is on track to be completed by the end of the calendar year.
In a media release on Friday, FAS said every match will be broadcast on Singtel TV, StarHub TV and myCujoo, a football streaming platform. Matches will also be streamed online via the SPL and 1Play Facebook pages.
FAS President Lim Kia Tong said the resumption of the SPL was an outcome the FAS and the SPL clubs, along with SportSG and relevant government authorities have "worked tirelessly" towards in the recent weeks.
"The FAS will ensure that all the necessary COVID-19 safe protocols are strictly adhered to, to ensure the smooth restart of the League and hopes it will pave the way for more local sports leagues and events to resume," said Mr Lim.
According to Mr Lim, reigning SPL champions Brunei DPMM are also part of the competition format on the SPL resuming, and that the FAS have provided them with an option of having their matches played in Singapore.
"We await their response by Oct 12, after which we will make the necessary preparations for the resumption. We remain hopeful that they will provide a favourable reply to our proposal," he said.