Tracey Kennedy calls for crowd limit for games to be extended to 500

Cork chairperson says she can't understand how hundreds of people are allowed to congregate at beaches and yet, no more than 200 are permitted through the turnstiles for a GAA fixture
Tracey Kennedy calls for crowd limit for games to be extended to 500
 Cork County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy: 'Our games are all about spectators. There are so many people going to be disappointed, so, from that point of view, it is a very difficult situation.'Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Cork County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy has called for logic to prevail in allowing 500 people to attend GAA fixtures across the country.

Kennedy echoed the comments of GAA president John Horan who last week called on the Government to extend from 200 to 500 the number of people permitted entry to a GAA match.

The Cork County Board deliberately held off commencing their county championship program until this weekend given phase four, which includes the increase in outdoor gatherings, was due to come into effect from yesterday.

The decision to halt entry to phase four until at least August 10 means Cork GAA will lose out on an estimated €206k in gate receipts across the next three weekends of action.

Kennedy cannot understand how hundreds of people are allowed to congregate at beaches and yet, no more than 200 are permitted through the turnstiles for a GAA fixture.

I would have been very strong up to now in doing what was safe. But if we take it that you can have a hundred people indoors in a shopping centre and you can have hundreds of people outdoors at a beach, I can't see how it is less safe to have 500 people in a very large venue. 

"Even our smallest championship venue would be well capable of allowing for safe social distancing for that many people,” Kennedy remarked.

“We have seen in previous phases that adjustments were made to different aspects [of the roadmap]. 

"For example, we thought the 5km radius was going to go to 20km but it actually went much wider and you were able to travel anywhere within your county. 

"So adjustments have been possible and I would like to see an adjustment to this particular aspect because I think we can guarantee the safety of 500 people within our grounds.

We didn't take up the first weekend that was available for competitive club activity because there was always going to be only 200 at those games and we knew how difficult that was going to be for people. 

"John Horan has called for that number to increase to 500 and I certainly would support that call.” 

The Cork executive has made 80 spectator tickets available for each of this weekend’s 26 football championship games. 

However, the priority access afforded to the 320 Cork GAA season ticket holders and approximately 800 Páirc Uí Chaoimh premium ticket holders - part of the latter package includes entry to all county championship games - means the number of spectator tickets available will be less than 80 for certain games.

“These people have already paid for their tickets,” said Kennedy of the priority access given to premium and season ticket holders.

Signage outside Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie
Signage outside Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie

“I would really like to stress that we are totally aware this is a deeply unsatisfactory situation and I certainly hope logic can prevail in terms of increasing the numbers who can go to games because there is nobody going to be happy with this arrangement except the lucky 80 people who get a ticket.

“Obviously, it is a financial setback. There is quite a difference in revenue. It is a financial hit to everybody, for our clubs, as well, because they get a proportion of our gate receipts.

“For me, it is not just about revenue. Our games are all about spectators. There are so many people going to be disappointed, so, from that point of view, it is a very difficult situation also.” 

 Cork, no more than other counties, have an online ticketing system in place and the chairperson implored patrons not to present themselves at a venue this weekend without a ticket.

“Please do not travel without a ticket, be as responsible as people have been throughout all of this crisis. All you are going to do is put pressure on the people at the gate who will have to turn you away.” 

Meanwhile, Croke Park has reaffirmed that it is up to each county board to decide whether a league or championship fixture involving a club which has temporarily paused activity because of coronavirus concerns goes ahead as scheduled or is postponed.

It follows events in Donegal over the weekend where Naomh Colmcille did not fulfil their league fixture against Fanad Gaels on Saturday, the club having suspended all activity the day previous “to prevent the potential spread of Covid-19”.

Naomh Colmcille officers took the decision to suspend activity having played a challenge game the weekend before last against Glack - one of 10 Derry clubs to temporarily shut down following an outbreak of Covid-19 in their area.

Donegal County Board did not allow for a postponement of Saturday's league fixture, rather a social media post from the Donegal GAA twitter account stated that “all scheduled club fixtures this weekend still stand as there are no suspected cases of Covid in any club in Donegal reported to the CCC”.

Kennedy said Cork county board has not agreed on a “blanket” policy for fixtures involving clubs who have temporarily halted activity. 

Instead, they will deal with each affected fixture on a case-by-case basis.

“If a case arises, each will have different implications. For example, if a substitute on a team tested positive for Covid-19, that has a certain ramification. If three brothers on a team - who all start - tested positive, that has a different implication in terms of how many people have to step down, who can't get involved, and whether or not a game can go ahead. 

Every situation is different, so rather than have a blanket policy, we are going to take each of these cases as they arise and see what the implications are.” 

Separately, Waterford GAA has announced its live streaming service will cost viewers €5 per game. 

Four Waterford senior hurling championship games will be live-streamed this weekend - Ballygunner v Tallow on Friday, De La Salle v Ballysaggart on Saturday, and Sunday’s meetings of Mount Sion v Clonea and Dungarvan v Fourmilewater.

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