A sports organization is pleading with both the Ontario and Toronto governments to loosen rules around sport leagues in COVID-19 hotspots, saying that team sports can be “be delivered in a safe way.”
The Sport and Social Club (SSC) represents more than 150,000 athletes in nine cities across the province, including Toronto. They operate year-round and provide access for outdoor and indoor sports.
“When we were mandated to cease operations due to the pandemic for five months (March – July), our organization, our employees and our members suffered; financially, physically and mentally,” the CEO and President of the SSC said in a news release issued on Thursday. “We are now being mandated to stop playing team sports indoors, as well as halt our programming for outdoor team sports in certain regions of Ontario for a second time.”
Late last week the Ontario government announced that three COVID-19 hotspots will revert to a modified Stage 2 of the province’s economic reopening plan. Under this categorization, indoor dining was halted and facilities such as gym and movie theatres were closed.
The government also said that team sports would be limited to training sessions. Games or scrimmages have been prohibited under this modified Stage 2.
The same day, the City of Toronto suspended all of its indoor recreational programming.
In their statement, the SSC said they believe an organized game of outdoor softball, soccer or beach volleyball could be done safely.
“We are seeking justification as to why the government is allowing people to eat and drink on a restaurant patio, attend a 100-person outdoor wedding, go shopping indoors at the Eaton Centre or host an unsupervised 25-person keg party in the backyard. And yet the government is not allowing us to run organized recreational outdoor sports, which would greatly benefit physical and mental health of the participants,” the SSC said.
The organization said there have been no COVID-19 cases linked to any one of their leagues and therefore is asking the government to loosen the rules prior to the end of the 28-day period.
“Waiting 28 days or longer will be a wasted opportunity to keep people outdoors and active at a time when they need it the most.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked on Thursday about how these rules are impacting smaller, grassroots studios in the community. He responded by saying he doesn’t like to see small fitness studios close, but underscored that he has to listen to health experts.
“I’m a big fan of these organizations and I’ll do everything I can. But at the end of the day, I still have to listen to docs,” Ford said, adding that there also has to be balance between what’s good for the economy and the mental health of Ontario residents.
Anyone who has concerns about whether or not their business or activity falls within the restrictions should speak with their local officer of health, Health Minister Christine Elliott said.