CROKE Park Stadium Director Peter McKenna has strongly rejected Dublin county board chairman Gerry Harrington’s suggestion controlled pitch invasions should be allowed at GAA HQ.
McKenna has described Harrington’s recent comments as “ill-informed” after the Dublin chief insisted Croker officials should let fans onto the pitch instead of battling in vain against the ongoing problem.
Harrington proposed a line of stewards marching towards the centre of the pitch, with fans following them in an orderly fashion, and said that such a move would minimise the risk of injury to patrons.
Cork native Harrington also described the practice of trying to stop pitch invasions as “nonsensical” but McKenna has insisted Harrington’s idea would merely exacerbate the existing issue.
McKenna said: “Gerry’s comments are ill-informed.
“Without getting into a war of words, I’m certainly going to use the next opportunity to brief Gerry on some of the factual situations here.
“In Manchester four weeks ago, a crowd were waiting for a concert, they ran through and a number of people were injured on the back of that.”
Harrington said allowing fans onto the pitch would only affect the Hill 16 terrace and lower tiers of the Canal End, Hogan Stand and Cusack Stand.
But McKenna revealed a dangerous “counter flow” is created when supporters dashing down from the upper tiers of the various stands come into contact with people vacating the lower sections.
McKenna also insisted the pitch surface itself cannot cope with thousands of spectators and he insisted: “Gerry’s proposal would only exacerbate the problem.”
McKenna has also revealed that Croke Park continues to deal with a litany of cases from spectators claiming injury as a result of pitch invasions at the stadium.
He said settlements in these individual cases can range from anywhere between €10,000 and substantial six-figure sums.
A frustrated McKenna lamented: “That’s real money that goes out of the system and you have to say that it’s a needless waste.
“All we’re doing it sucking it away from ourselves.
“85% of all money received by the GAA is reinvested and no other association gets near that, not even any of the big charities I would venture.
“Paying insurance claims and repairing damage are costs that all add up and it’s money that’s flowing out.”
McKenna vowed the fight against pitch invasions will continue in the new year and urged people to think carefully about their match-day behaviour.
He warned: “Once people realise the inherent dangers and if somebody gets hurt, on our heads be it all.
“We had a couple of incidents this year but it just adds more to the resolve to try and stop this.
“It’s about educating people because thousands of people coming onto the pitch is an accident waiting to happen.
“We have tried a lot of things but that just means that you have to try harder, be more creative and more resourceful.
“The fact that we haven’t been successful is not a reason to give up because the problem hasn’t gone away.
“It’s as much as issue now as it was a year or two ago.
“We cannot lose our resolve and it’s about not giving up the challenge.
“It’s also about informing people and giving them all of the facts.
“We’re not out to be spoilsports, quite the opposite, because this is a deep-rooted tradition that works well with a small crowd.
“You don’t want to stop a small club with people watching from coming on afterwards; there’s nothing dangerous about that but with 35,000 trying to come on, the whole mechanism of how the building operates is in a ‘panic’ situation. We’re very fortunate that any issues that have arisen have been managed and controlled but there is a very strong propensity for a problem and I would call it a high probability, high consequence event.”
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