If the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) put in place are anything to go by, then sport may take a while to get out of the blocks and move on from the coronavirus pandemic.
A costly mandatory testing 72 hours before engagements and later bi-weekly as well as team camps to isolate from society announced by President Yoweri Museveni nine days ago are the hurdles stakeholders are facing.
And local football body Fufa announced at the weekend that they would need an extra month for the football season to kick-off.
The Uganda Premier League (UPL) will now tentatively kick-off on November 17, the most it’s delayed to start in recent years.
But the season cannot start unless the third team from the Fufa Big League play-offs has been selected from either of Kataka, Kitara, Kiboga Young or Ndejje University.
The four clubs will tentatively camp at the Fufa Technical Centre in Njeru but they are first hoping that Fufa can bail them out on the burden of testing for Covid-19.
“As Kataka, and even other clubs, those costs, as they are saying, it should be the federation to incur those costs if we are to camp,” opined CEO Hassan Kirunda.
“But we (Kataka) planned early enough,” he said. “May be we can also share the costs, but our hope is on the federation.”
Expensive Plan B
So what if Fufa does not come through as expected? “A club preparing to go to the top-flight stage must be prepared for such. Our club is headed by Hon. Patrick Isiagi and we have been planning meetings with guidelines of Covid-19.
“Apart from the pitch issues, financially, we are set,” added Kirunda. Kataka has played at the Big League stage for three seasons and the Mbale-bred outfit meets Kitara in the semi-final.
The other semi-final has 2018 champions Ndejje University up against Kiboga Young. Ndejje may be an institutional club but they too are feeling a bigger financial hurdle than the challenge on the pitch.
“The management of the team has to look for the money,” said Ndejje’s director of communications Collins Semanda.
Ndejje has a team of 28 players and seven key officials. And if testing costs Shs240000 per kit, then they will have to spend Shs8.4m.
Logistics for Ndejje like training allowances take an estimated Shs4m per day while a match day costs them between Shs8-10m.
“It means that you have to spend at least Shs500000 on each player or official on just testing. If you make the final, you will have to test again,” added Semanda.
The challenge doesn’t get any easier for other teams in the regional play-offs..
Covid stretches cost of organising standing playoffs
Football federation Fufa could require at least Shs130m to run Covid-19 tests on a limited number of team contingent if they are to encamp and complete the regional and Big League promotional playoffs.
Estimates by Daily Monitor Sports shows that for the remaining 20 teams in the two lower tier playoffs – Fufa nullified the fourth and fifth division results when it triggered the 75 per cent rule to end the league in May – the federation could spend at least Shs120m on a single round of testing.
The clubs say the Covid-19 tests, charged Shs240,000 at public hospitals and Shs350,000 in private facilities, is too prohibitive for their shoestring budget that has already been hit hard by a virus that has come to stay.
Club officials, including from top-flight sides, have appealed on Fufa to carry the burden of footing the Covid-19 test bills. They have also prayed the government looks into the possibility of subsidising the unit cost of the tests for football clubs.
The 20 teams in regional and Big League playoffs will have at least a squad of 18 players and seven officials – if Fufa limited them so.
In the case of the limited 25 contingent from each of the 20 teams to have one round of Covid test, they would need at least Shs6m each, totalling Shs120m – using the public hospital.
However, the federation would still have match officials to cater for.
A match usually has at least five officials – three field referees and the fourth official as well as the assessor.
For the three Big League playoff games, Fufa would have to fork Shs3.6m on the officials.
However, the regional playoffs have at least 12 games. This would mean another Shs14.4m for a single round of Covid-19 tests for the match officials.
But when for other SOPs such as sanitizers, is would be inconceivable if the clubs in playoffs cannot afford them.
The clubs would also have to meet their in-camp obligations like feeding their players but Fufa would foot the bills for hosting them as well as any additional officials involved in the game.