Athletics Ireland chief Hamish Adams says while it’s difficult to predict when athletics will return, the governing body will need to be “innovative” when running events after the lockdown.
“It’s very difficult to predict the future with all the parameters that go with it,” said Adams.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all morning, for instance — getting on calls, and more of that this afternoon, meetings online and on the phone, trying to put all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.
“We have club activity that we want to recommence as soon as possible, we have competitions, and we also have recreational or mass events which will obviously come back at a later stage, given the likely numbers involved.
“But in reality we’re operating in the dark. The government’s released the road map, obviously, with the three-week blocks, but again — all the information is very generic.”
Adams added that Athletics Ireland are working with Sport Ireland and the government to work out a more precise — and safe — return to action: “We’re now in the position where we’re working with our colleagues in Sport Ireland to try to get clarification from government officials as to what the roadmap means specifically for athletics as opposed to all the other sports.
“That’s our challenge, really — trying to piece it all together bit by bit. At the moment I can’t say we’ll start competition on a certain date or that clubs can go back at a certain date.
“There are a number of principles governing everything — we’re following government guidelines when it comes to the transition, so when I say we want competition and events, we obviously want to ensure that people are safe and to focus on the health and well-being of the athletes.
“We’re also aware, for instance, that some form of lead-in will be needed for training before events resume — you can’t expect clubs to go back this week and then participate in a championship next week.
“We’ll have to be innovative about holding those events, too, in terms of ensuring we meet all the guidelines. So we don’t have specifics, but I presume other organisations are in the same boat.
“The one positive we have in athletics is that it’s a non-contact sport, and we can socially distance. We could be one of the first sports to get back and to be operational.”
Adams says “it’s fantastic to see” so many people out jogging and running during the lockdown.
“The number of people out walking and running over the last few weeks means we believe there could be a demand for participation events and opportunities for people to challenge themselves in events.
“We’d certainly hope to see more people continue running — you can see that a lot of people have rediscovered running already, and the reason for that is probably as much to do with mental health as physical health in these challenging times.
“So we’d hope to see an increase in club membership when the lockdown ends.”
Those clubs are already encouraging people to run, he adds: “With the clubs most people have rolled up their sleeves and gotten on with it, they’ve tried to do their best for the country like everybody else.
“Obviously clubs can’t function at the moment and kids can’t go to club training and so on — but the clubs are still encouraging people to go out and be active, to go running. That’s all they can do.
“We’ve been very active online in terms of webinars and so on, and club members — and others — have been very good with virtual runs and so forth.
“The challenge facing clubs is the same one that faces all of us — deciphering the information that we’re being bombarded with — but the key is to keep it simple. To get the running shoes on, to get out there and to do what you can."