Minister ‘optimistic’ about return of spectators at some sports events

Cabinet to look at supports for tourism sector in off-peak season

Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers has said he is "optimistic" that spectators will be allowed back at some sports games on a trial basis this summer.

Mr Chambers said the Government will be working with the various sporting bodies and also examining what other European countries are doing in relation to spectators returning.

The Dublin West TD was addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht on Tuesday alongside Minister Catherine Martin.

Fianna Fáil Senator Shane Cassells asked the Junior Minister whether he could see fans returning this year, pointing to the League Cup semi-final taking place at London's Wembley Stadium this weekend which will have 4,000 fans in attendance.


Mr Chambers said "a massive amount of work" has gone into a draft plan about the return of spectators to games with Sport Ireland and some of the other governing bodies.

‘Run test events’

“I’d be optimistic that through the summer we will be able to have test events, obviously that will be subject to Government decisions and the overall public health position at the time, but I would be optimistic we can run test events and get spectators back at some of our games during the summer,” Mr Chambers said.

“We will be working with the sports sector to try and do that . . .Fans and spectators are really important and we can learn from other European countries that are doing this already.”

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said the stay-and-spend scheme, which was launched last summer to boost the tourism and hospitality sector, had been “completely underutilised”.

“Public health conditions beyond our control clearly prevented the success of this scheme. That stop and start nature of the pandemic and unpredicted consequences have resulted in the scheme being completely underutilised,” she said.

“A review of the stay-and-spend scheme is one of the recommendations of the tourism recovery oversight group and I’ve urged Cabinet colleagues to look at that.

Boost to the industry

“I’m in favour of a scheme that would provide a boost to the industry in that off-peak season again.”

Ms Martin said the scheme is due to end at the end of this month and it is anticipated that Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will "take stock and look at what supports would be best suited for the tourism sector to be put in place for that off-peak season again".

In relation to outdoor performances, Ms Martin said it is “still too early to say when that would happen”, but that she was “cautiously optimistic” for the summer.

Ms Martin also said the night-time economy taskforce is due to finalise its report in the coming weeks with practical recommendations and that it will be published.

“A huge demand for diversity of offering and flexibility in the operating environment arose from in-depth and extensive consultations,” she said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times