Ruby Walsh: How we are going to move on is more of a blank canvass than a grey area

I don’t know what we learned this week, but we figured out sports are exploring every avenue possible to resume activity once a government gives them the go-ahead and others are simply not ready yet or willing to accept that they are going to have to change.
Ruby Walsh: How we are going to move on is more of a blank canvass than a grey area
Ruby Walsh: 'Showcase meetings like Galway have had to accept the reality that their festival is only going to be a normal meeting like everywhere else this year, as will Tramore and Killarney through July and August.'

I don’t know what we learned this week, but we figured out sports are exploring every avenue possible to resume activity once a government gives them the go-ahead and others are simply not ready yet or willing to accept that they are going to have to change.

Normal is not going to be normal anymore.

Social distancing is going to be required until a vaccine is produced against Covid-19. Even then what happens?

Will we all be made take a vaccine that nobody will know what the long-term side effects could be? There might be none, but there sure as hell could be.

Will the vaccine be optional? Will a vaccine trialled over a 12-month period even be the answer?

Nobody knows that either, but what we did learn is that this lockdown has stemmed the tide of Covid-19. But how we are going to move on is still a grey area, actually it’s not even grey, it’s more like a blank canvass.

For our society to maintain itself, our economy has to move and the only department of our economy I have any knowledge of is sport.

The massive spinoff from sport into our economy - pubs, chip shops, corporate entertainment, etc - are really going to struggle to survive this because the only way forward for a quite long time, as I see it, is for sport to operate within social distance requirements.

Therefore, all the social activity associated with sport becomes a difficult operation to manage.

As for contact sports, such as the GAA, soccer, rugby and the like, well, they are going to have watch the non-contact ones operate first and see how or what they can learn to get themselves back on the road.

Horse racing here seems to be the very eager to adapt and is willing to forego any attendance or crowd in order to get the show back on the road.

French and German racing authorities have set provisional dates in early May for a resumption behind closed doors, and the sector here would be ready to rock pretty quickly once it gets the go-ahead.

Our neighbours across the water are exploring far more elaborate ways of getting themselves moving again but, with so many chiefs and so many ideas being thrown around, I think they are further away from a resumption than other jurisdictions.

Racing has the luxury of decent media rights deals which will fund racecourses to stage meetings behind closed doors, but they won’t be profitable.

Showcase meetings like Galway have had to accept the reality that their festival is only going to be a normal meeting like everywhere else this year, as will Tramore and Killarney through July and August.

The Curragh will be even quieter now than it was through its refurbishment, and, with vast empty spaces of lawns, Ascot could look like the best kept garden in Europe during its Royal meeting. But they will hopefully be on.

Gate receipts at meetings and spinoffs from bars, restaurants and other outlets are the profits for Irish racecourses which allow them to rebuild, maintain and modernise facilities.

Among Irish courses Galway is the leader in that field but for now it will be about the sport, just the racing, with all associated partners, like gambling and hospitality, operating at half-mast or not at all.

It will be a start - a start on long road to a new place, because all our behaviours will have changed. Sport on radio, streams and TV are going to be the new normal - what you saw or listened to rather than what you attended and witnessed.

How each sport is going to manage and adjust to this will be key to what the future looks like.

Crowds are gone for now, but sport must adapt.

The Bundesliga is trying, the Premier League and League of Ireland are exploring. Finances are going to be tight but ways of moving forward need to be found, new ways of training, travelling, and enjoying.

Testing and more testing might be the way forward, and surely inventing a much simpler way of testing, one we could use from home - and daily, at that - is more realistically achievable in the short term than a vaccine.

Add in a “health passport” where you log your test results and maybe we could all find a way back to work.

Phone, keys, wallet, health card. They could be we what we check for before we set about leaving home in future - but at least we might be leaving home.

The cost of something like that is the first question people will ask but think of what staying at home is costing us all right now.

We need leaders to show us a way out. Sport could be that leader if it thinks big enough.

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