The debate over easing of restrictions in time for Christmas, in time for returning emigrants, in time for saving pubs and restaurants and in time for every sector is growing more intense as numbers of infections remain stubbornly in the mid-100’s and sport is not immune from the frustration of a semi-permanent lockdown.

Basketball Ireland has issued an urgent call for the government to provide a clear exit plan for indoor sport once an emergence from level 5 becomes possible.

It has highlighted that plans for a return to basketball are far more advanced in Europe, with Spain as one example, where Covid-19 rates are far higher than in Ireland.

In a hard-hitting statement issued yesterday, Basketball Ireland said that “For too long basketball and indoor sport has been left in the margins when it comes to guidelines handed out by the government, with proper consideration only given to outdoor sports.”

“We are urging consultation with not alone Basketball Ireland, but other indoor sports too. There is a huge cohort of people who are invested physically and emotionally in indoor sport and they need to be listened to and fully considered.”

“Sport is hugely important for physical and mental health, livelihoods are also at stake at all levels of our game, our National League is semi-professional, with clubs having contract commitments to players, coaches and technical staff.”

“Basketball Ireland will commit further resource to allow our National League to begin again, such as increased testing and nominate central venues where games will be played, to reduce travel.”

Basketball Ireland CEO, Bernard O’Byrne, added that “Our sport has had a handbrake applied since March. We’ve led from the front when it came to dealing with Covid-19, calling a halt to our league back in spring. Basketball Ireland and our clubs have since invested a lot of time, money and effort to put necessary safety measures in place, which has resulted in no cases emerging through basketball activity anywhere in the country.”

“We now need the government to provide a clear pathway for us to resume. We have been ignored and watched on while other elite-level sports have continued. We now want the government to agree to a schedule for basketball’s return, so we, and our clubs, can plan accordingly, without being left in limbo. We shall continue to work in tandem with Sport Ireland to get our sport underway as soon as possible.”

Ireland is due to host the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries next summer in Limerick and that is another factor in looking for clarity.

The focus has naturally been on the major field sports by reason of their size, reach and connection, through mainstream media and through playing in clubs, to the largest number of the population.

But Basketball is right to raise the level of conversation around how other sports can come back. In a world where the numbers and the importance attributed to them is changing daily, having a loud, clear voice advocating not to be forgotten is important.

The vaccine developments of the past week have been positive but they will be another six months at least before they can be seen to have an impact.

Until then, the clock keeps ticking and the reserves keep dwindling.

Indoor sport is not alone and maybe not the most important element in the eyes of Government but it is within its own community, and shouting that out loud and proud is certainly within the remit of those who administer it.

Sport for Business Partners