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Maltese Premier League and Challenge League to start as planned despite COVID-19 cases

The Malta FA is planning to start the Premier League and the Challenge League as planned next month despite a rise of COVID-19 cases in football clubs in the last few days.

The Times of Malta reported on Wednesday, that the number of COVID-19 cases in football clubs had reached double figures in the last few days with the most high-profile club being Premier League side Balzan who reported that three first-team players had tested positive for the virus.

On Thursday, Birkirkara FC was the latest Premier League club to report a case when they announced that a member of their senior squad had tested positive and the club decided to suspend all training sessions.

Speaking during a video conference, MFA president Bjorn Vassallo said that the Malta FA is still looking to go ahead with plans of starting the Premier League and the Challenge League next month and has set up a consultative health body to draw a protocol that will be implemented once these competitions get underway.

“The Malta FA has decided to continue our preparations so that the Premier League and the Challenge League will kick off as scheduled,” Vassallo said.

“Many people wrote on social media questioning our plans as they contended that we stopped the championship when there were far less cases than this time.

“But the situation now is different than in March we had legal restrictions from the authorities to stop our competitions while this time there are no legal notices that forbid the start of competitions so we continue our preparations.

“We have set up a consultative body, made up of medical experts, representatives from the authorities as well as the Parliamentary Secretary for Sport who will guide us through the COVID-19 situation and they will be working in the coming weeks to set up a medical protocol that will be implemented at the start of the competition.”

The MFA president said that given the delicate situation due to COVID-19, it was necessary to give priority to major competitions from others and that is why it has been decided that for the time being all efforts will be focused to organise UEFA club competitions matches and the national teams’ competitive games as well as starting the Premier League, the Challenge League, and the Youth League.

“As regards participation of our clubs in the UEFA club competitions and the national team commitments in the Nations League we are lucky to be involved with representatives from so-called safe countries so it will be easy to take part in these matches without any added restrictions. Players involved in these competitions will not be asked to go into quarantine on their return to Malta,” Vassallo said.

“These matches will be played behind closed doors and only a small number of accredited personnel, which includes media, will be permitted to enter the stadia.”

Plans to start the National Amateur League as well as the GFA leagues, which were due to kick-off in October and November, has been put on ice at the moment and see how the situation evolves while the Youth FA competitions will start once the schools will reopen.

“This does not mean that they cannot continue to train and play friendly matches in a safe manner,” Vassallo added.

“As regards matches from the women’s league and futsal competitions these will start as planned as they are held on a smaller format than major competitions.”

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