28 September 2020 – A mere six months ago the footballing world feared the worst. The COVID-19 pandemic was slowly making its way into most countries around the globe.

With football being the world’s most popular sporting code, most involved in the beautiful game were resigned to proceedings being cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future. Alas, that was indeed the case, particularly in terms of international action as well as many prominent leagues.

Ligue 1 (France) and the Eredivisie (Netherlands) were cancelled, with the former crowning Paris Saint Germain as champions as they were in first-place when play was suspended, while the latter refused to go the same route with no team being awarded the title.

In simple terms, the footballing world was in chaos with no clear solution in sight and everyone in limbo. Associations and Federations waited with bated breath for directives from mother bodies. In many places non was forthcoming as safety was the sole priority.

Eventually, things did improve and Germany’s Bundesliga decided to attempt a gradual re-start. This was accomplished with success under strict guidelines and protocols which included aspects such as regular drinks breaks, constant sanitizing of goalposts and corner flags and mandatory mask-wearing for touchline staff and personnel, among other important rules and regulations.

Other leagues followed suit and things went off fairly smoothly — an extraordinary accomplishment given that football is obviously a contact sport. The likes of England completed their domestic schedules as well as South Africa and Spain. This not only brought joy to the players, coaches and fans (albeit from home) but has somewhat eased the initial financial strain brought about by the virus.

In many places, the new season has already begun in earnest and reports are positive. There is however still a while to go before football is back in full flow. As with many things in the post-COVID world, football, for at least the foreseeable future, there will be a “new normal” where fans are welcomed back to stadiums. For many, this seems to be the main priority going forward.

Fans returning to support their favourite teams will signal true progress and have a positive knock-on effect for other vital functions. Revenue will be boosted, as well as morale (in terms of both players and fans), more jobs will be saved and also created while also allowing clubs and leagues to resume their pursuit of presenting sponsors in earnest.

Proper planning still needs to be done to ensure a smooth re-integration to ensure safety for all concerned while also pre-planning for a possible ‘second wave’, which would be disastrous for the sporting world.

In essence, so far so good. The action on the pitch has gone a long way to negating the effects of the virus but things are still not where administrators want them to be. Careful consideration and strategizing will be required in the coming months, particularly on the local front (with an emphasis on lower leagues) for a sport that we all so dearly love.

We await guidance from government on when and how football can resume in SA.