Covid-19 lockdown ‘put a massive strain on clubs’

Club chairman has written a manual on interpreting and implementing protocols

A fan watches the Roscommon SFC semi-final between St Brigid’s and Boyle at Dr Hyde Park from the adjoining St Coman’s cemetery. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

A fan watches the Roscommon SFC semi-final between St Brigid’s and Boyle at Dr Hyde Park from the adjoining St Coman’s cemetery. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

As the GAA club season heads towards its conclusion with many county championships all over the country staging semi-finals and finals, this may well come as a relief to those who have been making it happen.

David Kelly is an associate with Callan Tansey solicitors, which in a way during these strange times makes it even more stressful to hold office as chair of Boyle GAA club, who for added anxiety lost last week’s Roscommon senior semi-final.

His profession functions like a flashing red light when it comes to interpreting and implementing protocols to deal with the Covid pandemic and all that goes with it and he has even written a manual on the subject.

For instance, while everyone has been getting a laugh or two out of the various pictures that surface at weekends of ingenious ways of watching matches from outside the ground, GAA officials have to see the grim side of someone wobbling in the wind atop a cherry picker overlooking a club ground.

“Is there is a duty of care?” asks Kelly. “There was a picture at the weekend in the Roscommon Herald of somebody up on a ladder at the cemetery end wall. If he gets seen by stewards and they do nothing, potentially they’re taking on a liability if anything happens to him because they were aware he was doing it and didn’t take all reasonable steps to stop him and ensure his safety.

“There would be contributory negligence but you are also opening yourself to liability if you see it happening and take no steps to prevent it.”

When the pandemic hit originally, the main obligation was to make sure club premises stayed closed but with the approach of summer and the decision to GAA property and resume the season came an avalanche of protocols, necessary to make a safe return to play feasible.

There was a feeling of being overwhelmed in the face of providing Covid officers for around 20 teams off a membership base between the GAA and women’s sports of just over 500 and facing the familiar, nationwide experience of having to deploy the same small numbers again and again.

“It put a massive strain on clubs,” says Kelly. “Rural clubs like ours have a shortage of volunteers and have to turn to the same people all the time. It was the same with our Covid committee. We were being asked to do these things by the GAA and had to implement them because if we didn’t we were leaving ourselves open so there was a big panic when they were first handed out.

“When these first came out, we had to make sure that everyone filled out a questionnaire every time for every training session, every game. That was changed and people just had to confirm and re-submit their health status. Then the GAA developed an online platform for doing it, which did help.

“Then there was a whole raft of obligations that we as a club had to comply with. I suppose in my club it may have been a bit zealous in compliance but I know as a solicitor if you don’t comply you’re leaving the club and officers perhaps open to taking on the liability even if the risk is small.

“Initially the obligations weren’t practical. Now thankfully, they were changing day by day and I do appreciate that there was uncertainty for everybody. The GAA don’t know everything and the top brass in Croke Park don’t know everything and I appreciate that.”

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