South Africa: New sports regulations for alert level 3
In a previous contribution, we reported that the alert level 3 regulations created two difficulties with regard to the regulation of sport. The regulations were ambiguous as to whether or not all professional athletes, and not merely those engaged in non-contact sports, could train, and the regulations failed to provide a definition of "non-contact sports". These difficulties, amongst others, have now been addressed in a new set of regulations, which were issued by Minister Mthethwa on 11 June 2020.
"Professional non-contact sport" has been defined as "a sport whereby athletes or players are physically separated and under normal circumstances would not come into contact with one another during the course of an event or game".
In addition, regulation 6A(5) now provides that "[o]nly non-contact professional sport bodies listed in annexure A may resume matches". The following professional sports bodies, amongst others, are listed in annexure A:
- Athletics SA, but only leagues for international, major competitions or Olympics qualification;
- Canoeing SA;
- Rowing SA;
- Sailing SA;
- Triathlon SA;
- Tennis SA;
- Cricket SA; and
- Squash SA.
A notable omission from annexure A is Swimming SA. It would therefore appear that, despite the fact that swimming seems to satisfy the definition of a "professional non-contact sport", professional swimming competitions will not be permitted under alert level 3.
Certain contact-sport athletes can train
Regulation 6A(6) provides that "[o]nly professional athletes in the sports codes listed in annexure B may resume training". The following sports codes are listed in annexure B:
- Rugby, only players and support staff for local elite leagues are permitted to train, and a 'non-contact training methodology' must be used;
- Figure skating;
- Athletics, only including those professional athletes preparing for national championships and Olympic qualification;
- Ice Hockey;
- Motorsport; and
- Netball, only including those professional netball players training for league competition.
A difficulty created by regulation 6A(6) is that it fails to specify whether, in addition to the professional sports codes listed in annexure B, the professional non-contact sports listed in annexure A are also permitted to train. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that annexure B includes non-contact sports such as motorsport and athletics.
Despite this difficulty, our view is that athletes that are part of the sports codes listed in annexure A, are permitted to train. The contrary position would result in the absurd situation where various athletes are permitted to take part in professional matches, but are not permitted to train for those matches.
Unfortunately non-professional sports people remain restricted from participating in amateur or recreational sports matches during alert level 3.
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