GAA championship behind closed doors will be ‘the last resort’
Croke Park hopeful of having between 30 per cent or 40 per cent capacity by October
At two metres distancing Croke Park will hold around 7,000 capacity within the stadium. File photograph: Inpho
Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna has reopened the question of GAA championship matches being played behind closed doors even though he concedes that it would be “very much the last resort”.
Speaking to Sarah McInerney on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today programme, McKenna emphasised that such a move might be necessary to finish the inter-county championships if the public health situation deteriorates after the scheduled beginning of action in mid-October.
“I think it is the least preferential. The thing about our games is they are very much about crowd being there and enjoying it. That is why the club championships have started first.
“Okay they are restricted to 200 people. In small villages that will accommodate them but when you look at some of the bigger clubs in some of the cities that is going to be a challenge.
“I’d hate for it to be behind closed doors, but if the championship starts, I guess we’ll need to finish it. We’d like to finish it this year if we could. The preference would be to not have it behind closed doors, but we will if necessary. It would very much be the last resort.”
In previous statements, top GAA officials have appeared to rule out playing matches without supporters.
McKenna, who is also the association’s commercial director, said he was hopeful that the limit of 200 on outdoor events, which was reaffirmed in Wednesday’s announcement of a pause on Phase 4 of the emergence from lockdown, might be relaxed.
GAA clubs, whose championships begin this weekend, had hoped that from week two, they would be moving to the scheduled higher attendance limit at outdoor fixtures of 500.
“I think once you start to unravel the restrictions,” according to McKenna, “you will see slightly bigger crowds within the stadium. At two metres distancing we are probably at around 7,000 capacity within the stadium. That is very, very small really.
“At one metre we are probably at around 22,000 and if we are allowed a degree of brush off - by which I mean people walking by each other in the same row - we could probably get up to 28,000.
“You’d be hopeful that come October we might be allowed 30 per cent or 40 per cent capacity in the stadium. But it is very much dependent on where Nphet see our progress as a nation.”