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More players in team sports at ActiveSG facilities, but some private operators have to wait a little longer

More players in team sports at ActiveSG facilities, but some private operators have to wait a little longer

A futsal game at St Wilfred ActiveSG sports centre on Mar 15, 2022. (Photo: CNA/Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

SINGAPORE: Team sports for up to 30 fully vaccinated persons will be allowed at selected ActiveSG or People’s Association facilities from Tuesday (Mar 15), but operators of private facilities will have to wait a little longer amid the ongoing approval process.

"We will be contacting private operators about their application from today and users can begin to play once the operators open up for booking," Sport Singapore said on Tuesday in response to queries from CNA.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced last Friday that sports will resume with up to 30 fully vaccinated people, up from a maximum of 10, as part of streamlined COVID-19 measures. Additional COVID-19 antigen rapid tests (ART) will also not be needed as long as all participants are fully vaccinated.

The streamlining of these measures had been postponed since it was first announced on Feb 16, as COVID-19 cases surged due to the Omicron variant.

Private sports facility operators told CNA they were disappointed at the postponements, adding that users had looked forward to having more players.

When authorities finally announced that the streamlined measures were going ahead on Tuesday, users called in asking if they could bring more players, the operators said. But as the day drew closer, the operators said they had not got the green light from Sport Singapore (SportSG).

PRIVATE OPERATORS

Mr Rajesh Mulani, co-founder of futsal facility The Cage, told CNA on Monday that private operators will typically have to apply to be part of the scheme and wait for SportSG's approval. The application process includes detailing their safe management measures to cater to more people.

"We've not heard anything yet (from SportSG). But we are ready, so once we get that approval then we can start taking bookings," he said.

Mr Rajesh highlighted that many have called to ask if three teams of five players each will be allowed, or if 11-a-side games can resume.

"As you can imagine, the phone has been off the hook already," he added. "Basically, (we tell them) just hang on a bit. Once we get the official go-ahead, we'll announce it on our social pages."

Mr Tony Tan, business manager of a company that owns floorball facility Red Quarters, said it has received a "deluge of enquiries" on when the expanded format will kick in, and that some have made advance block bookings in anticipation of the move.

"It's absolutely frustrating because we can't tell them yes or no, we say we're still waiting for approval," he told CNA on Monday.

"It's been taking quite a bit of our social media team's effort to answer all these enquiries, even on email from our regular bookers. Because it is a big difference (for them) - first of all, you can have more people playing, secondly, you do away with the ARTs."

REGISTRATION EXTENDED

SportSG said on its ActiveSG website that registration for private operators has been extended to 8pm on Wednesday. It said it has received more than 70 applications to date, and has so far approved 13 operators based on their "operational readiness".

Mr Rajesh told CNA on Tuesday that he has received the approval, "but we have to wait for the formal notification before we can open up the group sizes".

SportSG said the registration was extended to allow private operators who wanted more clarity about the latest MOH measures to assess if they would like to apply, and how they could optimise their facilities given the larger number of players allowed.

The safe management measures include ensuring players have their masks on before and after the game as well as during breaks, and ensuring sufficient time between each game to prevent intermingling between players of different game sessions.

Even though 30 players are allowed, the number of participants in the field of play must also be consistent with the relevant sport - for example, seven versus seven for netball - with the rest waiting in a separate area.

"SportSG has worked closely with private operators to ensure that the necessary safe management measures are put in place to safeguard the community, and are adjusted in tandem with the COVID-19 situation," a spokesperson said.

"We will continue to provide regular advisory updates through our website and social media, and engagements with stakeholders in the sport and fitness sector on the expanded format."

ANTIGEN RAPID TESTS NO LONGER NEEDED

When CNA visited St Wilfred ActiveSG sports centre on Tuesday, the two futsal pitches there only had 10 players each and players said they did not need to take ARTs.

Kovan Sports Centre, a private operator of futsal pitches, also said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that players need not take an ART. It added that it was still waiting for "official approval" on the increased group sizes.

Red Quarters' Mr Tan said he is not blaming SportSG for the delays, pointing out that they have to act in line with government guidelines. "I think the frustration stems from overall," he said, adding that he just wanted to minimise confusion among users.

While Mr Rajesh admitted he was "bummed out" when the streamlining of measures was postponed, he said: "You also don't want to be going into things with an air of anxiety in the background."

"I much rather we go forward with confidence and optimism," he added.

"I'm sure for everybody who enjoys the game, this is really what we've been looking forward to ... football being played the way we would like to."

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Source: CNA/hz(mi)

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