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Games behind closed doors 'not seriously considered by the GAA at this stage'

A spokesperson for the association says such a measure would only be discussed ‘if it means no championship at all.’

Croke Park [file pic].
Croke Park [file pic].
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Updated Apr 20th 2020, 9:53 PM

THE PROSPECT OF playing games behind closed doors “has not been seriously considered at this stage” by the GAA, according to a spokesperson for the association. 

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said over the weekend that it is unlikely major sporting events will take place in Ireland in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

The GAA recently earmarked July as the earliest possible starting point for the GAA championships, although Harris’ warning places severe doubt over the 2020 competitions.

In light of the current epidemic, a Special Congress took place last week, where delegates voted in favour of handing over decision-making powers to GAA’s management committee in the event of this kind of emergency

Speaking on OTB AM, the GAA’s Director of Communications Alan Milton says they are “certainly hopeful” that GAA games could be played in 2020 while also conceding that the Minister has a responsibility “to outline what he sees are threats and realities that all citizens of Ireland have to face.”

He also said that club activity is “far likelier to return earlier” given the smaller crowds that attend those games.

When asked what potential plans the GAA are looking at as to how the rest of the season could be completed, Milton said:

“You’re looking at two potential models in my view. The first is the traditional backdoor system that we had, or plan b, possibly a straight knockout.

I can honestly say that the idea of playing games behind closed doors has not been seriously considered at this stage. I think it’s a profound decision for the GAA to take if it has to take it.

“But I think it would only come into sharp focus if it means no championship at all or a championship behind closed doors.

“I think it’s a very different conversation to be had with our players if that was an ask of them. It might be an unfair ask on amateur sportspeople, depending on what their personal circumstances are.”

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In relation to the possibility of implementing social distancing measures at major GAA stadiums and capping crowd numbers, Milton continued:

“It hasn’t been considered in any serious way but I think it’s something you’d have to engage experts on.

“I think terracing would be a challenge there because it might be hard to police. Practicing something like that in a stand situation might be more realistic, but again, I’d be misleading you if I said we sat down and marked this out in any sort of meaningful way.”

Milton also mentioned the Bayern Munich football club who, along with other Bundesliga sides, have returned to training in small groups under strict social distancing rules earlier this month.

“I think everyone is really looking for live sport and we’d all love to have a championship to look forward to, but it has to be done in the right way, and it has to be approached in the right way. 

One story I picked up on in recent weeks was the return to training of the Bayern Munich soccer players. Albeit it’s in a professional setting but there are glimmers of hope out there but how that might transfer or manifest into an amateur sporting setting is totally different.”

You can listen to the full interview here. Skip to 1:07 to hear from the GAA’s Alan Milton.

Source: Off The Ball/YouTube

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