GAA to take keen interest in Leinster trial to get spectators back at the RDS

Peter McKenna also monitoring experience among Pemier League clubs in England

Supporters stand for the national anthem ahead of the Wicklow SFC Final between Baltinglass and  Tinahely in Aughrim in September 2020. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Supporters stand for the national anthem ahead of the Wicklow SFC Final between Baltinglass and Tinahely in Aughrim in September 2020. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Leinster rugby’s proposal of a ‘proof of concept’ trial for a match with spectators has raised hopes within the GAA that some crowds might be allowed to return as this summer’s season unfolds.

Last year saw limited numbers attend club matches in the summer and early autumn but that figure never rose above 200, although the permitted crowds in Northern Ireland were slightly bigger.

Croke Park’s stadium director Peter McKenna said that were the Leinster proposal to be approved by the Government, it would raise hopes for the championship.

“That would be the ambition to see some people allowed into the stadia by the end of the summer. That would demonstrably show people that we’re getting back to normal. There are issues with public transport et cetera and we’ll keep an eye on how that works in Britain.

“Then there’s our experience of running events and whether we can convince Nphet that we’re doing this in as safe a manner as possible.

“The whole unlocking will be driven by data to be honest and we’ll be watching with keen interest to see how soccer in the UK is opening up. That’s predicated on numbers being vaccinated and will they insist on vaccine passports?

“There’s controversy over that and whether people who aren’t medically capable of taking a vaccine or the conscientious objectors are to be excluded.”

The proof of concept envisages people being invited to attend an antigen test on the morning of the match and if that is passed, the person’s phone is contacted and they bring the result as well as the ticket along – or if they fail the test are passed on for a PCR.

Tickets are allocated in pairs with a crowd of 2,000 being proposed by Leinster for the trial – each pair to be socially distanced by two metres from others.

McKenna though enters a caveat.

“That’s assuming that people will come back quite easily and I’m not so sure that is the case. We’ve been 14 months in this and will people come back readily to congregating? There could be a lot of reluctance.

“That was the case in the States. They didn’t turn up at NFL grounds in the sort of numbers that organisers thought they would. Public confidence has been rattled and there’s a big nervousness there. Now I may be wrong but the pattern in the US is that it’s not changing quickly so may take longer than people thought.”

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