By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

BASKETBALL continues to be largely shut because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic but the world governing body for the sport is gearing up for its eventual return by coming out with guidelines for its restart.

Early this week, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) released the guidelines for basketball’s return in the wake of COVID-19 along with a risk assessment tool which was produced in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

The guidelines are specifically for national federations to lead them as they restart basketball activities and competitions.

Due to the continuing spread of the highly contagious COVID-19, basketball for a vast majority in the world has been shut since mid-March.

FIBA said the guidelines and risk assessment tool will provide a checklist to ensure any decisions on basketball events are based on an assessment of risks and the best chance of a successful restart.

It was quick to say, however, that these are not intended to supplant the guidance and restrictions of governments and public health authorities.

The risk assessment tool, FIBA added, is a live document and will be updated regularly.

The guidelines have been developed by FIBA Medical Commission Chairman, Dr. Peter Harcourt of Australia, following his consultation with the FIBA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group (MAG), and also both the FIBA Medical and Players Commissions.

Among those laid down in it are key questions for federations to answer before doing a restart.

And they are: What are the local government and public health authority guidance and restrictions and how will they impact the smooth running of a basketball competition? What is the COVID-19 prevalence in the community and is it safe to restart? Is the community coping with the medical complications of the COVID-19 pandemic? Is travel safe and permitted, both domestic and international?

FIBA also lists down actions, while not fully comprehensive and mandatory, to use as a guide for a return to action.

Initial preparation involves forming a restart oversight committee (including CEO or delegate, head of competitions, infectious diseases physician, sports medicine physician, project manager, government liaison, media, etc.); undertaking a full risk and mitigation assessment; developing a restart plan with wide sport consultation and include a benchmarking exercise by reviewing similar team sports or other basketball organizations; liaising with the local government and public health authorities for eventual sign-off; and implementing the plan but have an exit strategy if directed by government or public health authorities.

Potential action checklist, meanwhile, covers those for whole of national federation basketball plan, basketball venue and facilities, medical support, travel and accommodation, testing for COVID-19, restart preparation of players and teams, education, biosafety actions, spectators, management of at-risk individuals, communication and stakeholder strategy, and teams.

“I wish to sincerely thank the FIBA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group, FIBA’s Commissions involved and the World Health Organisation for their invaluable work, expertise and continued contribution towards protecting our national federations, players, officials and basketball event organizers,” said FIBA Secretary-General Andreas Zagklis of the guidelines.

“This set of guidelines will be very beneficial for the basketball community in their return to our game. We all miss our sport being played and as the situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, FIBA remains committed to providing guidance for a safe environment for the ‘Return to Basketball,’” he added.

Incidentally, how the local federation would go about adjusting to the effects of COVID-19 would be spotlighted moving forward with the country one of three nations hosting the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

In a recent radio interview, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio said despite COVID-19, they, along with fellow organizers from Indonesia and Japan, have begun preparation for the basketball spectacle.

He said they are confident that it will be a successful hosting for all three countries notwithstanding the challenges at hand just as he expressed hope that come 2023, COVID-19 has been controlled and everything is well and good.

The FIBA guidelines and risk assessment tool are available to download from the FIBA COVID-19 document center at|tab=282d33a4-e941-4db5-838e-bbea20ca184d.