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‘This is like a war - Irish sport and the Irish economy will need a Marshall Plan’

Fianna Fáil sports spokesperson warns that it could be months before we see top-level sport again in Ireland.

Sport has shut its doors during the Covid-19 crisis.
Sport has shut its doors during the Covid-19 crisis.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MARC MacSHARRY, THE Fianna Fáil spokesperson for sport, has expressed the view that Ireland’s new coalition government will have to come up with a ‘modern-day Marshall Plan’ to help Ireland’s sporting economy recover.

Fearing the seismic financial impact that will hit every sporting code, the Sligo/Leitrim deputy has delivered the loudest warning yet by a senior politician that clubs, county boards and sporting bodies may have to avail of state intervention to survive.

Short-term, he also spelled out a bleak outlook for the forthcoming months, saying that it was unfeasible to think that any top-level sport will be played in the immediate future.

A strong candidate to succeed Shane Ross as minister for sport, MacSharry believes it is certain that the leading health advisories to the government will suggest a restriction on mass gatherings for as long as possible, to allow this Coronavirus crisis to pass.

“Nobody knows for sure when sport will come back but we have to contend with the reality that it may be months rather than weeks before teams are training together again,” MacSharry said.

“Most seasons as we know it are probably a write-off even at this stage. Given the circumstances, the risk to people’s health, the advice about social distancing coming from health experts, I just can’t see professional sport returning any time soon.”

The implications of this will be felt across many sports. In GAA, the 2020 National Leagues in hurling and football already appear doomed. Soccer’s League of Ireland 2020 campaign will also be in jeopardy if this shutdown continues until September. As for rugby’s Pro14 and Champions Cup, finding the time to complete either tournament is looking increasingly difficult.

Accordingly, problems will soon arrive. Broadcasters have contracts; county boards have bills; the FAI, IRFU and GAA have salaries to pay. The longer this shutdown goes on, the likelier it is that we’ll encounter a financial disaster.
“Economically, sport – indeed many industries – are going to suffer a terrible hit and it is becoming clearer by the day that a modern-day Marshall Plan will be required to restart the economy,” MacSharry said.

The TD fears that a prolonged shutdown could push unemployment towards the 1million mark and believes a massive state borrowing programme will be required to help not just sport but the entire economy.

“There will be a battle for resources and sport has to be part of that battle,” MacSharry said.

“A substantial recovery plan will have to be drawn up. We need our sport. It’s a huge part of Irish life. To get it back up and running, we may need government support.”

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Garry Doyle

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