The Aquatic Sports Association of Malta has pleaded with the health authorities to give their green light so that athletes who practise swimming and waterpolo will be permitted to return to training, provided they follow the medical protocol lined up by the local governing body.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that this week the government was set to lift more restrictions that would see the re-opening of restaurants, nail technicians and hairdressers but he made no mention on whether any athletes will be able to return to training in either individual or team sport.

The ASA said that in recent days pictures of people jogging, walking and on beaches appeared on social media and this is allowed as long as social-distancing is observed, but sport has been completely ignored, adding that the ASA has an internationally-approved protocol in hand ready to be used.

“It’s unfortunate that all athletes have been ignored. One would assume that athletes form a great part of the healthiest people and yet their need to train, practice their sport and keep in shape was disregarded,” the ASA said.

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“If associations/federations are entrusted to promote and organise their sports through their affiliated clubs, shouldn’t they also be entrusted with organising training sessions for their athletes respecting the restrictions in place?

“The ASA has an internationally approved protocol in hand and are awaiting a go-ahead from the authorities to be in a position to implement this once the pools are re-opened.”

The ASA continued that in recent days there have been many countries where various sports have been given the go-ahead to restart but not in Malta.

“Malta, has done a great job in controlling the situation, and we would like to thank the Authorities and all the front-liners … but, unfortunately, once again, as a sporting nation, we fall behind, by not giving sports its rightful importance,” the ASA said.

“The benefits of sports are known to all and sundry but unfortunately are being completely ignored.

“Once this pandemic is over and all returns to normal, our swimmers and water polo players, like all other athletes, will be expected to pick up where they left off. They will be expected to perform at the highest level possible disregarding the fact that having been inactive for such a long period will have adverse physical and mental repercussions.

“It is common knowledge that Maltese athletes are conditioned by a number of limitations – the size of the country, funding opportunities, facilities, resources, and, of course, the weather, and they definitely do not need any additional obstacles.

“If people are allowed to go to the beach, why are swimmers and water polo players not allowed to train at their respective clubs?”

The ASA said it cannot understand how restaurants over the island are given permission to operate on takeaway basis and also by providing delivery services to their products while restaurants at local clubs remained closed.

“Since the start of restrictions imposed, sports facilities have been closed leaving all athletes to fend for themselves and find alternative training methods,” the ASA said in its statement.

“Also, whilst restaurants were allowed, indeed urged to continue serving take-away food and delivering their meals around the island, all catering establishments in any sports facility were not given this opportunity.

“They have been completely shut down.

“In aquatic sports, most clubs receive a great part of their revenue from such catering establishments and as such now find themselves in dire straits.

“They are expected to continue employing professional coaches and pay wages to some of their athletes whilst not being in a position to collect money from their nursery subscriptions, memberships or indeed rent due from the catering establishments or diving centres on their club premises.”

The ASA said that acquatic sport clubs are facing the prospects of receiving very little revenue from their sponsors, leaving them without any source of income.

“Considering the overall economic effect of this pandemic, they may also face problems from their sponsors,” the ASA said.

“Unfortunately, since clubs are run by dedicated volunteers and, unlike football (for example), receive no funds form the European body, all their sources of income have been truncated.”

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