Minister says spectator trials could be at All-Ireland or League of Ireland matches this summer

Wider resumption of sport ‘an important objective of the Government’ says Chambers

Minister for Sport Jack Chambers believes a Championship or League of Ireland match during the summer could be used as part of the pilot scheme aimed at facilitating the safe return of crowds to games. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Minister for Sport Jack Chambers believes a Championship or League of Ireland match during the summer could be used as part of the pilot scheme aimed at facilitating the safe return of crowds to games. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Spectators could be present at a GAA All-Ireland match or League of Ireland football game this summer as part of trials that would see the return of fans, Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers has said.

The senior minister in his department, Catherine Martin, said on Thursday the Government is preparing proposals on the holding of a limited number of pilot large events for sport and music.

However, she could not offer a date for when such trials will take place.

“It’s really complex from planning, from ticketing to the crowd management, to how you travel to and from, and anything from looking at the use of testing to analysing the crowd management,” she said. “As soon as it can be done and the public health guidelines allow we will proceed”.

Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly had previously asked a Parliamentary Question on the return of supporters to live sports events. Mr Chambers responded on Wednesday to say that spectators are allowed at events in limited numbers under Levels 1 and 2 of the Government’s plan for Covid-19 measures.

Draft guidelines have been drawn up for this in consultation with the FAI, IRFU and GAA and have been submitted to public health authorities for their consideration.

He said the next step is scheduling some test events, though this is contingent on the prevalence of the virus. 

Mr Chambers said: “I believe that we can start to pilot and to test events this summer.

“We would all like to see spectators back at, for example, one of the All-Ireland matches or a League of Ireland game this summer.

“I am positive and optimistic about that but we are not there yet.”

He suggested rapid antigen testing for Covid-19 “may play a key role” not just in sport but also in third-level education and other areas of society. “We want to see reopen and stay open,” he said.

Mr Chambers said that accelerating the resumption of sport, including the holding of competitions which many young people and adults have missed out on for many months, is “an important objective of the Government .

He said: “It is necessary that we continue to be guided by health officials on how best to allow safe attendance at sporting and cultural events.

“Minister Martin and I will continue out constructive and close engagement with the sports sector.”