Health, Safety and Volunteers First for GAA

It didn’t take long to get to the heart of the interview that John Horan, GAA President, did on RTÉ’s Sunday Game last night.

Straight from the throw-in, the most pressing question was the first on Des Cahill’s playlist and if it was greeted by a reaction in homes around the country, it will have been one of resignation.

Des Cahill: “Will Gaelic Games be played at any level while there is social distancing in place?”

John Horan: “I can’t see it happening to be quite honest, because if social distancing is a priority to deal with this pandemic, I don’t know how we can play a contact sport and that’s what this is, a contact sport.”

It summed up the reasons behind the GAA announcing last week that there would be no activity and that club grounds would remain closed, through to July 20th as outlined in the Government roadmap published last Friday week.

We wrote last week that it was the critical phrase of “so long as social distancing is maintained,” that would cause all other potential threads of hope for contact sport to unravel.

There is a counter-argument which uses the fact that science says you have to be in the vicinity of someone for 15 minutes for the threat of infection to be at its highest but this is not a game of absolutes and the GAA decision has at least removed any grey areas that could have posed problems for clubs and officials at a local level.

“There was a concept in (the roadmap) that people could gather in groups of four, but we felt that that just couldn’t be marshalled in our clubs and that’s why we decided to keep our premises closed. Our clubs are led by a load of good quality volunteer people and to put the onus on the volunteers within our organisation to police and organise training within their facilities was too much on them.”

“People’s health and people’s safety is key to it.”

The dates of potential returns at different levels are flexible and can be moved back or forward depending on how the return to social activity is managed across all sectors of the country.

“Only if and when it’s safe will we allow a return to training and play,” added Horan in an assured performance in front of a very impressive new virtual studio.

There was confirmation that club games would be given priority on a return in order to get the vast majority of players back into action.

It is likely that Juvenile games will be played on a league basis to get as many games as possible played, and for Championship knockouts to be held only at senior level.

Looking at the financial implications for the organisation comes down the list of priorities but it is a serious issue.

“It is a serious situation for us. It’s one of the things that is quite worrying for us. We operate on a financial profile, such as the €74m last year, that all gets recirculated. We don’t engage in building up massive reserves.

“So our whole operation and budgeting this year would have been on the basis of revenue streams coming in from games and sponsors.

“Looking at the figures at the moment, it looks like we will end up with a loss of €25 million to €30 million, centrally in Croke Park. That is the central GAA and the actual stadium.

“Throughout the organisation taking into account county boards and clubs, the loss for the year for us is probably in the region of €50m.

“Unfortunately [for those who have applied for grants], they have possibly just hit a bad time for their application. The money is not there. As soon as the money comes back on stream, we’ll only be too delighted to be getting back our supporting our clubs with the money.

“A €50m loss throughout a whole organisation that doesn’t keep big reserves, we just won’t have the funding to hand it out.

“That is why I’m conscious that everyone should cut costs. We have done that in Croke Park with our budgets to trim it back as best we can, because we want to be as robust as we can when we get the opportunity to come back.”

“You’d get some revenues if you went to play behind closed doors but I think if there are games on the pitch there will be crowds in the stadium as well.”

“We cannot risk anyone’s health and that’s the most important thing.”

You can see the full interview here…

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