Aviva Stadium chief executive Martin Murphy says they would be able to facilitate the return of supporters within two weeks of being given the go-ahead from the Government and NPHET.
Having staged 18 games behind closed doors since the Covid-19 pandemic began here last March, Murphy insists operating at a heavily reduced capacity would not be viable financially, and that a significant return would be required.
With the Republic of Ireland welcoming Luxembourg to Dublin for their opening home World Cup qualifier in March and the possibility of Euro 2020 still coming to the capital in the summer, Murphy accepts that a major reduction in the current number of coronavirus cases throughout the country will be needed for any serious consideration of reopening the turnstiles at Lansdowne Road.
“We need to start turning the tap on in terms of getting revenues flowing again. But that is a financial consideration,” the Aviva Stadium CEO told the Sport For Business virtual summit.
“The bigger consideration is health safety and ensuring that we can run these events safely when it is time to do so. We will be dictated to and guided by the Government and we will do everything we can to try and assist with the advice and information that we have available to us, and they plug that into NPHET and Government circles so they have a fuller and complete picture of what sport can do.
“Providing we have engaged with NPHET and the relevant authorities to make sure they are happy with our plans, it [re-opening] could be done in two weeks in my view. It would be a challenge getting ticketing out but that is a logistical challenge that can be overcome.
“So, it can be done very quickly. Everyone is pulling in the right direction and we're all aware of the issues the other has. There is nobody trying to push this through blindly without cognisance of what the big issues are.” However, Murphy was adamant that re-opening the Aviva could not be done at any cost. “We’ve got to be mindful that we’re in the middle of a crisis and the crisis has got deeper over the last month. So, we’ve got to be realistic in our expectations.
“The intention is when things improve, we’ll be able to activate very quickly to get people in in a safe manner and we’ve taken advice and looked at what’s around the world and we’re confident that we can run matches safely provided the external environment is right.
“There are a couple of things in the decision making there. There is a financial aspect to running these events. Running an event with a small number is not viable because of the cost involved in putting on these events.
"So, there is an economic aspect and the logistic and safety aspect of it. We will be guided by the government guidelines, the social distancing that will apply at the time.
“But we’re seeing things happening, such as the rollout of vaccinations, and I think there is a view that numbers are going down. That’s positive. We would hope that is maintained and when the numbers are right and down to reasonable level we can start reintroducing supporters. But we would need to reintroduce reasonable numbers once we have had the test events and have proved the events can be run safely. But the numbers would really need to be substantial to justify the economic aspect of it.”