The extension of Level five restrictions through to the first week of March will surprise few but still leaves a long horizon without sport at anything other than the highest level.

Each of the three main sporting bodies will make their own call on the resumption of elite-level activities in the coming days but the opportunity to get underage children back into some form of organised physical activity will not be on the agenda until such time as there is a return to schools.

Rugby’s provinces will continue to train and play at Senior level in the Guinness PRO14 and the Heineken Champions’ Cup.

The Guinness Six Nations will still be permitted though with all games taking place behind closed doors.

A start date for the Energia All Ireland League is not on the short term planning schedule.

In soccer, the SSE Airtricity League is pencilled in to get underway at the end of March for both the Men’s and Women’s competitions and there is no need to question those dates for now.

The return of players to pre-season training is underway already though with strict protocols in place across those clubs that have started.

The Government guidelines allow for the return to collective training for Senior inter-county teams in the GAA but the Association has decided itself not to permit this yet.

The start of the Allianz Leagues has already been deferred from its traditional first weekend in February to the last weekend of next month with a shortened and regionalised completion in Football taking account of the likely remaining restrictions on movement.

Now that we know full Level Five restrictions will remain in place beyond that start date we may see it being pushed back another month with a corresponding shift in All Ireland Championships from a planned July conclusion to one in August.

There is at least that wriggle room in the calendar for 2021 and the GAA has proven to be flexible over the past twelve months getting the majority of games played safely and Senior competitions at least brought to a safe conclusion.

In terms of indoor sport, gyms and swimming pools the picture is less clear with the shadow of a slower than before emergence into lighter restrictions.

At least the government funding for 2020 and 2021 was sufficient to give breathing room for the sporting bodies and organisations most impacted.

For now, we can only continue to act in a responsible manner and continue to drive down the number of infections and hospitalizations by our own adherence to the right actions.

 

Sport for Business Partners