The wait goes on for private operators

Left out of pilot scheme for public venues, facility owners hope team sports can resume

Team sports like futsal and basketball returned to selected ActiveSG and People's Association (PA) venues on Wednesday with the launch of a pilot scheme, but the pitches and halls of private sports facilities remained quiet.

But operators of these facilities and their patrons are optimistic that the programme - which allows up to 10 fully vaccinated persons to take part in team sports at the public facilities - will be extended to private venues soon.

Sanjay Danani, co-founder of futsal facility The Cage, said: "We'd like to think that the Government is trying to iron out all the kinks by doing it at their facilities first, before slowly inviting us to be part of the pilot programme."

Danani, 51, has been in contact with Sport Singapore to ask if his team can do on-site recce trips to some ActiveSG and PA venues to learn about the necessary procedures such as the administration of antigen rapid tests (ART), which users have to carry out themselves 30 minutes before their session.

Geraldine Tan, co-owner of floorball facility Red Quarters, had hoped that private facilities would be part of the pilot scheme as the business has been badly hit by the tightening of Covid-19 measures in recent months.

While it had tried introducing training clinics and cutting booking fees by up to 50 per cent, the take-up rate was low.

But she sees the pilot as a positive step forward, adding that her team have been sprucing up the facility in the past few months and working on their standard operating procedure so they are able to welcome players back safely when they are allowed to do so.

Recruitment consultant Marcus Teng, who plays for Singapore Football League team Singapore Cricket Club, hopes to see the return of 11-a-side football.

Since the pandemic struck, Teng, 25, has seen his playing time reduced from three to four times a week to once a week.

He said: "At least there's a glimmer of hope, for sport to reopen and on a bigger scale... I believe a slow reopening is good to see the initial risk exposure and to see how to improve."

Swimming coach Yang Bin, who used to play tennis doubles three to four times a week at a condominium and at the National University of Singapore Society, was initially disappointed he would not be able to play at his regular venues.

With the current measures, the 51-year-old has been playing singles tennis once-to twice-weekly and is considering booking one of the facilities that are part of the pilot scheme.

He said: "For younger players, singles matches are no problem. But for us at our age, it's really intense because there's no one to help you and everyone needs to run, so it's quite tough. I also don't get to hang out with as many friends and usually with these sessions, it's the more the merrier."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2021, with the headline 'The wait goes on for private operators'. Subscribe