Task force make plea to Government to give ‘fair hearing’ to indoor sport

“There was a lot of frustration on the call,” said Bernard O’Byrne, CEO of Basketball Ireland
Task force make plea to Government to give ‘fair hearing’ to indoor sport

Bernard O’Byrne, CEO of Basketball Ireland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

A task force representing various indoor sports will make an urgent submission to the Government for fairer treatment as plans are finalised to exit level-5 restrictions.

In a call with the Federation of Irish Sport on Wednesday, chief executives of national governing bodies in 18 indoor sports vented their anger at their exclusion from previous discussions surrounding the return to sporting activities.

“There was a lot of frustration on the call,” said Bernard O’Byrne, CEO of Basketball Ireland. “We don’t think indoor sports have been listened to or are getting a fair hearing. We feel if decisions are made without consultations, it’s very hard to have any subsequent say in things.”

With indoor sporting activity at a standstill in recent months, clubs in sports like basketball, gymnastics, and badminton are struggling to weather the storm as memberships decline and revenue streams disappear.

“Registrations are substantially down,” said O’Byrne. “We’ve been trying to put stuff online so people can do something but there’s a limit to how much you can do. They need to get back playing. This is why we want a plan. We need to keep people’s morale up. We need to let them know it mightn’t be today or next week, but there is a plan for them to be back.”

Basketball Ireland hope to recommence the men’s and women’s Super League on January 9, and O’Byrne fears that if that deadline is pushed back the entire season — and with it various clubs — may be at risk.

“That would be disastrous from many aspects. Starting with elite level but all the way down to clubs that close their doors and those kids could be gone from basketball and it’ll take a long time to get back to where we’re at.”

O’Byrne noted that “90% of the European basketball leagues are either back playing or have a plan to play in December or January” despite the incidence rate of Covid-19 being substantially higher in the majority of those countries.

“We are outliers,” he said. “I think enough consideration hasn’t been given because of the predominance of the three main sports in Ireland and it’s not us against them, we just want a fair hearing for indoor sports.”

Over the past couple of months elite basketballers have been unable to train “except in their own houses or backyards” and O’Byrne said it’s “absolutely urgent that they be able to get back and be able to play” as most are contracted for the season on a professional or semi-professional basis.

“We want an exit plan for our elite players, our 52 national league clubs, and for our international squads so they will be allowed commence training in December in a very protected and safe environment.”

Despite the frustration on Wednesday’s call, O’Byrne said those representing indoor sports are “very determined to move forward in a positive way and to be part of the solution rather than causing problems for people who are trying to do their best”.

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