Safety measures for athletes and spectators are seldom a top priority for sports authorities in Tanzania. Instead, the acquisition of lucrative sponsorship has become the most important consideration.
Last week’s FIA-sanctioned motor sport safety seminar held in Tanga for the second time in two years is impeccable proof of how the Automobile Association of Tanzania carries safety right on its shoulders.
True, motor rallies are more susceptible to loss of life and limb among drivers, navigators, spectators, etc., as well as damage to property than applies to most other sports and hence the need for greater care for safety. However, safety considerations are equally important in other sports categories as well if we are to generally keep such loss and damage down.
AAT is leading in terms of safety measures, with statistics showing deaths still in single digits – much lower than in most other African countries. But however low the mortality figures, the association is not abandoning efforts to make even more encouraging headway.
The association has been working hard to enhance safety during motor sports activities to avert or at least minimise injuries to drivers, navigators, spectators and pedestrians alike.
We hail AAT for such the initiative without meaning to underrate the efforts made with respect to other sports categories, as surely the need for safety is not restricted to any particular sport discipline. For instance, we know for fact that discipline such as boxing may be just as injury-prone as motor sports.
In soccer, we need to see serious efforts to make stadiums safer in more senses than one. Examples include ensuring the facilities don’t cave in and crowd trouble does not leave any of those around hurt, even during big-time matches that are sure crowd-pullers.
It will be recalled that scores of people were injured during last premiership season’s derby between Young Africans and Azam FC at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
And this points to lack of preparedness by our soccer and law-enforcement authorities when the need to contain crowd trouble arises. Players, officials and spectators all need to be protected against any harmful incident inside and outside stadiums. It would be tragic waiting until there is loss of life or limb before remedial action is taken.
Fans have always turned up in their thousands for sports categories such as soccer and motor rallies, but measures to maintain safety are still way below par. Every sports category thus must devise its own plan of action to contain crowd trouble.
Cooperation with police authorities alone has failed to achieve the desired results, so other measures such as public awareness campaigns should be deployed to complement the efforts. Fans must be advised on how best to behave in the event of stampedes, as panicking can prove very costly.
While AAT is already taking bold steps to bolster safety measures, other sports categories are still banking on police as a best option to ensure safety – and this is surely having it all wrong.
The Tanzania Football Federation should translate the huge crowd attendances commonly witnessed at soccer stadiums to devise more and better ways of helping the police to guarantee safety.