GAA officials in Northern Ireland are hopeful that crowds in excess of 1,000 people will be able to attend games in the closing stages of their club championships.
After the Northern Ireland Executive left it at the discretion of venue owners to put limits on the number of spectators providing social distancing of two metres is respected, Ulster GAA recommended two capacities of 400 and 250 depending on the grounds having consulted with the GAA’s Covid advisory group.
For venues with perimeter fencing and viewing access on all four sides, 400 was designated as the limit with 250 for those grounds where there is no perimeter fencing. Those figures included essential match personnel.
As the GAA wait to hear today if the current crowd restriction of 200 can be lifted for matches in the 26 counties, there is quiet confidence in the north that significant crowd numbers will be permitted for attractive club fixtures at county grounds in the coming weeks.
According to the NI Executive’s “Safe Return of Limited Spectators to Outdoor Sports Events” documents, risk assessments must be completed prior to an organised sporting event or fixture being held. A crowd management plan should also be in place, which details controlled entry and exit of spectators including staggering entry times and one-way systems inside the view to maintain social distancing and minimise the risk of crowd congestion.
Booking systems are also recommended as well as additional hygiene provisions such as hand washing and sanitizer stations along with screens at catering and retail outlets.
The Irish Football Association agreed that 500 people could be permitted into Windsor Park for last Friday's Irish Cup final between Glentoran and Ballymena United. It is being suggested the Irish Premiership could start next month or in October with 50% venue capacity.
The first senior finals in the six counties are the Armagh SFC and Antrim and Derry SHC deciders on the weekend of September 13 followed a week later by the Antrim, Down (both codes) and the Tyrone football finals.
Last year, an impressive 9,511 watched the Derry SFC final between Magherafelt and Glen in Celtic Park, while 6,095 attended the Tyrone showdown between Trillick and Errigal Ciarán in Healy Park.