Minister Mahloof joins Commonwealth forum on COVID-19 sports impact

Minister Mahloof joins Commonwealth forum on COVID-19 sports impact

Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Ahmed Mahloof, on Monday, joined a Ministerial Forum hosted by the Commonwealth concerning the impact of COVID-19 on the sports sector.

Sports ministers from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific that participated in the forum discussed the economic and public health implications of the closure of gyms and exercise facilities, the decimation of the local and international sporting calendar, and revenue losses from broadcasting and sponsorship deals.

As per a recent Commonwealth study, the GDP contribution of the sports sector could drop by over 20 percent in several of the 54 member countries while the economies are predicted to contract by an average of 3.2 percent.

Representatives at the forum presented their respective nation's response to challenges and plan to reinvigorate the sports sector. The proposed measures include the introduction of guidelines for cross border competitions, provision of financial support for grassroots clubs, investment in the e-sport sector and establishment of helplines to address abuse in sporting activities.

In a statement released following the forum, the ministers agreed that future policies, programmes or competitions should combine modified formats with COVID-19 suppression measures in addition to an overall focus on recovery.

Overall, the participants assented to the necessity of Commonwealth collaboration in the success of recovery efforts of the sports sector.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland stated that "..necessary restrictions affecting the sports sector make much of its future uncertain and are preventing it from making its much-needed contributions to physical wellbeing, mental health and economic activity."

"It was really encouraging to see how Sports Ministers in our member countries are responding to the effects of COVID-19 with powerful and imaginative initiatives."

Return-to-play toolkits, grants for community clubs and virtual programmes to encourage people across a wide age-range to be more physically active, were among the suggestions shared at the forum.

"What also came through loud and clear is that by continuing to work together our chances of success in overcoming the impacts of the pandemic are greater, and our recovery will be swifter and more sustainable".

"Building on existing cooperation and momentum already achieved, the Commonwealth Secretariat has launched a range of innovative projects and programmes, based on careful research and analysis, so that in all our member countries sport can be used more effectively to build communities that are socially and economically more resilient with healthier populations".

Resources shared with the ministers during the forum include the Commonwealth Moves programme, an online intended to address the ‘pandemic’ of immobility which is being exacerbated by COVID-19. It involves activities for all demographics, including youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Forum participants also expressed support for the Commonwealth's programme on measuring the sports sector's contribution to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) as well as an online course on designing effective policies and programmes. Chair of the forum, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage Amina Mohamed stated "This forum was timely and critical for many governments still working very hard to fight the devastating pandemic that ambushed the globe early this year".

"The forum confirmed an unmistakable desire among Commonwealth Sport Ministers to collaborate, share solutions and pool their collective knowledge aided by the Commonwealth Secretariat, including a newly developed pool of resources, carefully crafted to support countries resuscitate sports sectors choked by COVID-19".