GAA, FAI, and IRFU to present roadmap on getting fans to return to stadiums

GAA, FAI, and IRFU to present roadmap on getting fans to return to stadiums

John Horan, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael, left, and Tom Ryan, Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA on arrival at Dáil Éireann. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

A working group formed by the GAA, FAI, and IRFU will present a roadmap to Government within four weeks on getting fans back into stadiums, with options to include moving rugby internationals out of Dublin, including overseas. 

The proposals from the three organisations come after they told the Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 response that the absence of supporters, especially at international and big-ticket matches, has ravaged the finances and sparked warnings over the future of clubs and competitions here. 

Tom Ryan, the GAA director general, warned of a €50m hole in the association's budget this year and the possibility of a €20m loss next year, with the FAI sounding the alarm over the future of the League of Ireland and the IRFU warning about the very existence of the professional game on this island if fans cannot return soon in larger numbers.

The IRFU said a 1m social distancing requirement would allow 18,000 people into the Aviva Stadium, whereas a 2m requirement would allow only 7,000. 

It is understood that as part of the ongoing discussions between the sporting organisations, the IRFU is outlining how due to the large sale of tickets to family groupings, the requirement for a 2m distancing within the ground would be reduced. 

It is understood the GAA and the FAI are also open to this suggestion, with the IRFU also open to moving Ireland internationals and other matches ordinarily held in Dublin out of the capital in the hypothetical scenario where Dublin is at a higher level of alert than other parts of the country.

That could open up the possibility of matches being played in Thomond Park, albeit with a reduced capacity, but also at GAA grounds in there was agreement from the Association, or even to grounds overseas, such as in Wales or London. 

All three organisation said they would work with NPHET and would comply with any public health guidelines handed down.

Other aspects of matchday plans would be enhanced sanitisation points in and around grounds.

The group has been receiving and sharing information with other federations from around Europe and the world on how they are dealing with the return of larger crowds while maintaining public health requirements.

This coming Thursday a particular focus will be trained on the UEFA Supercup game between Bayern Munich and Seville, at which 20,000 people are expected to attend. 

All three organisations stressed the financial impact of closed stadia, with the IRFU saying all four provinces needed assistance, but with Ulster and Munster in more need than Leinster and Connacht.

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