The Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday issued the new set of guidelines to be followed across the country during the fourth stage of the coronavirus lockdown. The home ministry's guidelines come after the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) directed the Centre and state governments to continue the coronavirus lockdown measures until May 31.
While the government had continued with the prohibition of commercial flights, metro services, educational institutions across the nation, it has put forth a few relaxations, one of which includes the opening of sports stadiums and sports complexes. However, the MHA has made it clear that spectators won't be allowed.
"Sports complexes and stadia will be permitted to open, however, spectators will not be allowed," read the statement released by MHA.
This implies that sports bodies like the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the All India Football Federation, can begin the planning of resuming sports, but behind closed doors.
For cricket, BCCI can look at the resumption of outdoor training before chalking down plans to restart domestic season which has put to a halt since the Ranji Trophy final two months back. This could also leave BCCI to beginning planning for IPL although with travel restrictions they could only wait until the pandemic settles down.
Sports bodies in India can take a cue from Germany's Bundesliga which became the first European football league to resume action since COVID-19 lockdown. Bundesliga resumed their 2019/20 season on Saturday with amole restrictions. No fans were allowed, substitutes maintained gap while sitting on the bench and wore mask and goal celebration included elbow pumps or smile. Even the commentators worked from home.
However, sport continues to be listed among the functions, gatherings and large congregations that are not allowed as of now.
The lockdown came into effect in mid-march and elite athletes, who are based at Sports Authority of India (SAI) complexes in Patiala and Bengaluru, have been demanding a resumption of training.
Last week, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju held a series of video conferences to take the athletes' view on the matter.
On May 3, he had declared that the ministry was aiming for a phased resumption of national camps by the end of this month for at least the Olympic-bound athletes.
(with PTI inputs)