'Matter of time' before fans allowed inside venues, says GAB

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 30 2021 03:12 PM | Updated as of Nov 30 2021 09:06 PM

'Matter of time' before fans allowed inside venues, says GAB

MANILA, Philippines -- Sports fans should be able to watch games in venues soon, the chief of the Philippine regulatory body for professional sports said recently.

Fans have not been allowed to attend games since March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amateur sports have yet to be allowed, and professional leagues have mostly held events in biosecure bubbles in the past two years.

But Abraham Mitra, chairman of the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), assured that they are working on getting the green light for fans to watch inside the venues.

"It's just a matter of time," Mitra said during GAB's monthly press conference recently. "We'd like to assure everybody that we're already working on it."

GAB is in constant communication with the Department of Health and the IATF on the matter, Mitra also said. 

As it stands, contact sports are already allowed in Metro Manila, which is under Alert Level 2 until December 15. Leagues are still required to get permission from the local government unit where their games will be held.

Mitra noted that in other countries, fans have long been allowed to watch games in-person.

"If you watch the NBA, if you watch the Premier League, football abroad, andoon na lahat ng tao. Marami pa ngang walang mask eh," he said.

Even in the Philippines, cinemas and restaurants are already allowed to operate at 50% capacity for fully vaccinated individuals, according to the guidelines by the IATF.

Mitra is optimistic that the same guidelines can be used to welcome fans back in arenas.

"For example, (pwede na) wala lang ringside. Mag-uumpisa ang audience sa lower box, tsaka 'di na pwede mag-tabi-tabi," he suggested. "Kahit nga sa sinehan, 'yung mga families hindi nagtatabi-tabi, merong nilalagay na parang cardboard in between."

"We're working on it," he added. "We're knocking on the doors of the IATF. Initially, essential people will be allowed, pero 'yung mga non-essentials, eventually maa-allow na rin 'yun."

Among the leagues that are preparing to welcome back fans is the PBA, which will open its second conference on December 8. PBA commissioner Willie Marcial is set to hold talks with the various LGUs that will host their games, in the hopes of getting clearance for fans to watch in person.

At the moment, fans will not yet be allowed inside the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City when they open the Governors' Cup.