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Projected July return date for soccer and GAA

18 May, meanwhile, is when things will start to get back to normal.

File pic.
File pic.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated at 21.35

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT has this evening earmarked a number of dates for sport’s gradual return following its postponement during the coronavirus crisis, with plans for a return for soccer and GAA “where limitations are placed on the numbers of spectators” set for 20 July onwards,

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today announced a five-phase road map as sport and Irish society prepares for its eventual return to normality, with golf courses set to re-open with significant restrictions in place later this month, while rugby will have to wait until August for its resumption.

The first stage will begin on 18 May, with the final stage earmarked for 10 August.

Per a government document released today, on 18 May, “open outdoor public sports amenities (e.g. pitches, tennis courts, golf courses etc”) where social distancing can be maintained” will become accessible.

In addition, on the same date, the government will “permit people to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, either individually or in very small groups (maximum four people) where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact”.

On 8 June, they will “permit people to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving small group team sports training (but not matches) where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact”.

On 29 June, they will “permit behind closed doors sporting activities events where arrangements are in place to enable participants to maintain social distancing”.

On 20 July, they will “permit sports team leagues (e.g. soccer and GAA) but only where limitations are placed on the numbers of spectators and where social distancing can be maintained”.

Furthermore, on the same date, they will “open public swimming pools where effective cleaning can be carried out and social distancing can be maintained”.

On 10 August, further restrictions will be lifted, and they will “permit close physical contact sports (rugby, boxing, wrestling),” and “open gyms, exercise, dance studios and sports clubs, only where regular and effective cleaning can be carried out and social distancing can be maintained”.

On the same date, they will also “permit sports spectatorship which involve mass gatherings only in accordance with both indoor and outdoor numbers restrictions and where social distancing can be complied with”.

In reaction to today’s news, the IRFU say they “welcome the plan set out by the government and will review its implications for our players, clubs and employee group”.

Meanwhile, the Football Association of Ireland has extended the cessation order for all football under its jurisdiction until 18 May, following today’s news.

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Part of a statement released tonight read: “The Association will now examine what this lockdown extension and the guidelines published in the Government’s ‘Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business’ mean for all stakeholders at all levels of the game. The FAI will move to evaluate the implications and update stakeholders from all strands of football as soon as feasible. 

“The decision to extend the cessation order for all football until May 18th has been taken in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the best interests of our players, coaches, volunteers, supporters and staff. 

“FAI Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne has again advised the FAI that in the current exceptional circumstances, clubs should not engage in collective training during the cessation period for all football activity under the FAI’s jurisdiction. 

“The FAI is in constant communication with the Department of Health and Uefa on Covid-19 and will continue to follow all government guidelines. The Association advises all members, volunteers and stakeholders to respect the HSE guidelines on social distancing during this pandemic.”

There is yet to be any response from Ireland’s other sporting bodies.

Additional reporting by Murray Kinsella.

More to follow

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Paul Fennessy

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