Kerry’s Tadgh Morley and Brian O’Beaglaoich celebrate Kerry’s semifinal win over Tyrone at Croke Park in last year’s All Ireland senior football championship. INPHO/BRYAN KEANE
The GAA is set to lose €50 million due to the Covid-19 virus wipe out of games this year its president, John Horan, warned at the weekend.
He also made it clear that it was his view that there would not be a return to hurling or football games because the social distancing made the holding of encounters impossible and unsafe for players and for their families.
“I can’t see it happening to be quite honest. If social distancing is a priority to deal with this pandemic, I don’t know how we can play a contact sport. That is what Gaelic games is. It is a contact sport,” he stressed.
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He made it clear that the GAA would not put people’s health in jeopardy and also emphasized that action would return first at club rather than county level.
The follow on to that was that there would be no 2020 championship unless the initial rounds begin by the end of the year and then they would have to be completed next January or February. He virtually ruled out this year’s league while being very pessimistic about championship fare getting off the ground.
Disagreeing with previous messages from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over possible opening dates for the organization in July, Horan said he had received support from club chairmen for the conservative roadmap Croke Park had handed down for a return date.
“There was a concept in it that people could gather together in groups of four. We felt that just couldn’t be marshaled within clubs and that is why we continue to keep our premises closed,” Horan said.
“We took our time, consulted with our county chairmen and management committee before we came to our decision which I think is the right one.
“If one GAA club developed into a word we use now, ‘cluster’ for Covid-19, I think that would be a very bad day’s work on our part. That is something we are very conscious of, that none of our facilities are going to become a cluster.”
Horan also addressed the fact that grants for clubs and county boards would be hit this year, given that the modus operandi of the Association is to financially support GAA work on an ongoing basis without the build up of a central saving fund. “Throughout the organization taking into account county boards and clubs, the loss for the year for us is probably in the region of €50 million,” he explained.
The president also made it clear that the GAA wasn’t in favor of playing either in front of empty stadia or with small crowds obeying social distancing.
“I have a bit of an issue with the closed doors concept. If it is safe enough for the players to be in close contact on the pitch, then it is going to be safe enough to have a certain number of people in the ground gathering,” he said.
“I don’t think behind closed doors is going to happen to be honest with you. I think if there is games to be on the pitch of contact sport, there is going to be a certain acceptance there will be crowds in the stadium. I think is where it is going to rest.”
He believed the most likely date for any sort of activity to return was in the July-October window. “If things improve and hopefully they will, then dates can be looked at and reviewed. They can be looked at in either manner, to be brought forward or pushed back. As it stands we feel both dates are a safe call at the moment,” he stated.