New Delhi: The Sports Ministry on Thursday advised National Sports Federations (NSFs) to suspend all sports events, including competitions or selections trials, until April 15 in view of the coronavirus pandemic that has brought most sporting activities in the country to a grinding halt.
"Today we have issued another fresh order from the ministry that all sports events and training centres will remain closed till April 15," Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju told reporters. "We have also ensured that no athletes or technical staff travel from one place to another. Any mass gathering is completely prohibited. Even the hostels in training centres are closed.
"The only exception is for those who have qualified for Olympics or on the verge of qualifications. They are very critical because if they miss out on anything it will have a huge impact on our preparations for the Tokyo Olympics. So only these athletes and their coaches are allowed to practice in their designated national camps. For that also the coming of outsiders into their camps is strictly prohibited."
The ministry's advisory, which was also marked to the Indian Olympic Association and the Board of Control for Cricket in India, stated that in the case of athletes who will be training for the Olympics, no exposure to athlete will be allowed from outside the campus where training is underway.
The advisory also said that coaches or training staff who are currently not residing in the camp will not be allowed to interact or mingle with trainee athletes without following the quarantine protocols.
So far, over 160 confirmed cases have been reported of the virus that has also led to three deaths.
'Fate of IPL can be decided after April 15'
The Sports Ministry has made it clear that the fate of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League can be decided only after the government comes out with a fresh advisory after April 15, keeping in mind the situation with regards to the coronavirus outbreak.
Sports Minister Rijiju reiterated that while it is the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which decides on cricketing matters, the pandemic is something which has a direct effect on the loves of the citizens of the country.
"After April 15 the government will come up with new advisory and guidelines according to the situation. BCCI is a body that looks after cricket which is not an Olympic sport. But here it is not the question of the sporting event alone but a question of the safety of the citizens. In an event there will be thousands of spectators. So it is not just for the sports bodies or sportspersons it is for every citizen of the country," he said.
The BCCI earlier put the IPL on hold till April 15 even though the tournament was set to start from March 29 after the government issued a travel advisory which made it clear that foreign players wouldn't be issued visas to come into the country. This was done in a meeting on March 11.
The Sports Ministry on March 12 made it clear that all sporting events should be cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. And if it is unavoidable, the events should be held behind closed doors so as to avoid mass gatherings.
The Delhi government went a step further and said that there would be no IPL matches in the national capital till March 31.
BCCI President Sourav Ganguly also informed the media after the meeting with IPL franchise owners last Saturday at the BCCI HQ in Mumbai that all calls would be taken keeping in mind the advisory from the government.