Government hopeful that sports fans will be able to return to grounds this summer

IRISH SPORTS FANS should begin to return to events this summer with grounds set to reopen in “a planned way and a cautious way”.

Minster of State for Sport Jack Chambers said on Monday night that he expects to see the first fans back in attendance at GAA championship and League of Ireland matches later this year.

Leinster Rugby have already submitted plans to government proposing to use rapid antigen testing for a test event with 2,000 spectators in the RDS next month.

Chambers was reluctant, however, to put a definitive timeline on when the first matches allowing a limited number of spectators could take place.

“We have a return-to-spectators plan that’s been drafted and we would like to do test events during the summer,” he said on The Tonight Show on Virgin Media.

“We can’t put a definitive date on that now but there’s nothing more I’d want to do as someone who lives in Dublin than to go and see a Dubs game.

“The All-Ireland is such an importance across GAA, ladies football and camogie. It’s great that we’re able to have an All-Ireland series this summer and, hopefully, with the vaccination effect, the one difference this year compared to last year is that we will see some spectators back.

“But that’ll be done in a planned way and a cautious way, and we’ve had a draft plan since the end of last year on that.”

"I think we will be able to see whether, it's a GAA match or a league of Ireland game, I'd like to think during the summer we will be able to test those events. We will hopefully have spectators during the summer"@jackfchambers on antigen testing of sports crowds

— TonightVMTV (@TonightVMTV) April 26, 2021

Chambers also indicated that it is unlikely that proof of vaccination will be required of fans hoping to attend these events.

“We wouldn’t like to exclude children from attending a game,” he explained. “But we’ve put a significant amount of work in, medical experts who’ve looked at comparative international analysis. We’ve seen, for example, the League Cup [final] last weekend had fans in the UK, and we will look at trying to do test events during the summer.

“We’ve also had the Ferguson Report, as well, on antigen testing and there’s a huge amount of science going into this across the world.

“And I think we’ll be able to see — whether it’s a GAA match or a League of Ireland game — I’d like to think, through the summer, we’ll be able to test those events. 

“And that shows the benefits of the huge sacrifice people have made over the last number of months. We will hopefully have spectators during the summer and I think people would welcome that.”

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Chambers also said that the return of outdoor training for adult teams in May is under discussion at present.

“We would like to see competition come back at a club level during the year and we’ll be working with the governing bodies on that, depending, obviously, on the public-health position at the time.”

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