- European Tour gets ready for restart behind closed doors, but hopes to see spectators at events later in 2020
- Salgado thanks Dubai and UAE for “big effort” to make every member of the community feel secure during COVID-19 crisis
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, June 11, 2020: Former Spain and Real Madrid star Michel Salgado and the head of European Tour Golf’s Middle East operations shared their insights alongside top officials of Dubai Sports Council and Dubai Police as they discussed safety protocols for the “Return of Spectators to Sports Stadiums” at Al Nasr Club on Wednesday.
Organised by Dubai Sports Council in collaboration with Dubai Police under the slogan “Your Commitment Our Happiness”, the forum also saw Dr Andrew Murray, Chief Medical Officer at European Tour Golf, and Gergo Szabo, a spokesperson for the Hungarian Football Federation, share their thoughts and experience on the topic via a live video feed.
Opening the discussions, His Excellency Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, clarified that the forum was not being organised to make any decisions or any announcements, but merely to share experiences and discuss protocols for the safe return of spectators to sports events, whenever authorities make a decision to allow that.
“At the very start, I would like to make it clear that we have not assembled here to make any decisions,” HE Saeed Hareb said in his opening remarks. “We are here to discuss protocols for the safe return of fans to our sports events, whenever that happens. We are not saying it will happen in one month or two months, or whatever. So let us be very clear about this.
“This is a forum where we have brought together different stakeholders to discuss and share our experiences and thoughts. The sports sector is opening up gradually and it is important for us to have this dialogue and take everyone onboard as we move forward. Most importantly, we have to plan ahead and be ready for the time when authorities will allow fans to attend sports events.
“We are really thankful to Dubai Police, our strategic partners, for joining us in this initiative once again and enriching the forum with their invaluable inputs. We thank Al Nasr for hosting the forum in this magnificent Al Maktoum Stadium, and we thank our partners in the media as well, along with representative of our clubs and sports federations for joining us today.”
His Excellency Major General Abdullah Al Ghaithi, Director of the General Authority for Security of Bodies, Installations and Emergencies in Dubai Police, opened the forum alongside HE Saeed Hareb and he thanked Dubai Sports Council for all the community initiatives they have launched in partnership with Dubai Police.
Nasser Aman Al Rahma, Assistant Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, was present at the forum along with a number of top officials from Dubai clubs - Saeed Al Ameri (Al Nasr), Dr. Khalid Al Zahid (Shabab Al Ahli), Mohammad Ali Amer (Al Wasl) and Ali Al Badawi (Hatta) – and members of the media.
Al Ghaithi said the situation regarding COVID-19 had improved greatly, thanks to the efforts made by all parties to restore normalcy in the Emirate of Dubai.
He added that Dubai Police, alongside its strategic partners, has made all the preparations for the safe return of spectators to sports events and awaiting the decision of the government and Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management.
Giving a presentation on the “Procedures (Protocols) for the return of spectators in the shadow of COVID 19”, Ahmed Salem Al Mahri, Manager of Sports Academies section at Dubai Sports Council, said the Council had studied the guidelines issued by internationals sports federations who had started implementing the gradual return of spectators.
Last month, Hungary became the first country in Europe to allow football clubs to reopen their stadiums to fans, but with some conditions, while the Polish League is expected to welcome fans back from June 19, at a limit of 25 per cent capacity This weekend, rugby union in New Zealand will make its return and between 20,000-35,000 fans are expected to pack the stands for the matches.
Al Mahri said Dubai Sports Council had studied the protocols issued by these leagues as well as other sports federations – 33 in total – and reviewed all the precautionary measures being practiced by them, and the Council will be ready with its safety protocols for fans whenever the authorities decide on opening the stadiums for official competitions.
Butti Al Falasi, Director of Security Awareness Department in Dubai Police, also spoke at the forum, talking about the “Role of Regulatory Institutions in Ensuring and Encouraging Safety”, while Salem Al-Mutawa, Secretary-General of the Emirates Basketball Association, gave a presentation of his federation’s plans for safe-seating whenever competitions resume.
Salgado, who is a Dubai resident and works with Dubai Sports Council on a number of initiatives, lost his father-in-law, former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz, to Coronavirus in March, and Spain, his home country, was one of the worst-hit nations as the pandemic brought life to a halt around the globe.
“I feel really blessed to be living here in Dubai with my family through COVID-19,” he said. “I felt really secure - not just me but my entire family - especially when you compare to what happened in my home country Spain.
“Spain was hit really hard by COVID-19, including my wife’s family. As you all know, I lost my father-in-law, who was the former president of Real Madrid.
“So I want to thank the authorities here in Dubai and the UAE for their big effort and for making us feel really secure during these tough moments and days.
“I also want thank Dubai Police and Dubai Sports Council for organizing this amazing forum and giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts on this wonderful platform with colleagues from many different sports present here.
“One of the biggest things that we missed during the lockdown - apart from our families if we were away from them – is sport. We cannot live without our sport. It’s our activation – sport activates our body and our mind. That’s why I was desperate to get our academies back, get our kids back to our academies to play sports again because the kids were really struggling a lot, stuck at home without sports.
“We are all responsible to get sports back, with health and with security. Why? Because sport is a big part of our life for so many reasons. First of all, it is education for our kids. Secondly, sport is competition and entertainment, and that is a big part of our life as well. So we need to make sure our fans are back in the stands, safe and healthy.”
Dubai is home to the European Tour’s season-ending finale, the DP World Tour Championships, which are scheduled to be held here at the Jumeirah Golf Estates from December 10-13. In past years, the tournament has attracted spectators in excess of 60,000 across four days, and fans could be queuing up at the turnstiles in similar numbers for this edition of the tournament as well.
Tom Phillips, Head of Middle East at European Tour Golf, remains optimistic but for now, the European Tour has decided to restart without fans as they play six tournaments in the United Kingdom starting July 22.
“As a global golf tour, The European Tour’s international reach is our greatest strength, but it has also been our greatest challenge as we look to return to competition,” said Phillips. “We run professional golf tournaments in 30-plus countries across the world, so that means dialogue with 30 different governing bodies and authorities, each with their own guidelines and unique situation.
“Despite this challenge, last week we were excited to announce the resumption of our 2020 season, starting on July 22 with a swing of events across the UK. Multiple events in one region will allow us to adopt strict health and safety measures.
“We have also announced new dates for four of our Rolex Series events, including the season-ending DP World Tour Championship here in Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates from December 10-13, where once again the winner of the 2020 Race to Dubai will be crowned.”
Talking about the attendance of fans, Phillips added: “In terms of spectators, our first six events in the UK will be played behind closed doors.
“However, we are looking into the possibility of spectator attendance for events played later in 2020, but we are not committed to it at this stage. It completely depends on risk mitigation, Government approval of the country we are in and adhering to general and overarching global health guidelines. Golf is not a stadium sport, but there are considerations unique to our events.
“All tournaments will be subject to the Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy, which will continue to evolve, aligned with international Government guidance and health guidelines.”