The announcement was supposed to be at 12, then 1230, then closer to one o’clock. Clearly, the discussion around the cabinet table was taking longer to reach a consensus than had been planned.

That made it certain that there would be some rowing back on the easing of restrictions but would it be wholesale with a return to full capacity held over until next year, or not?

When Micheál Martin stepped up to the dais at Government Buildings as he has done before it was with less of a pep in his step than previously.

There would still be masks and social distancing. There would still be Covid Certs for indoor dining, there would be a delay until the Spring of 2022 before a full-scale return to workplaces was encouraged.

But then the ray of light for our major sporting bodies, that restriction on the capacity for outdoor events would be lifted.

In Abbotstown and on Lansdowne Road, In Croke Park and at County Grounds around the country you could feel the exhalation of breath in relief.

For fans too they could renew the scramble to get tickets with a bit more confidence.

When the Republic of Ireland host Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo et al on Thursday, November 11th, they will do so in front of a full Aviva Stadium for the first time under Stephen Kenny.

When only 50 hours later the Irish Rugby team plays host to the iconic All Blacks, it will be a similar scenario.

And when county finals reach fever pitch, the FAI Cup takes centre stage, and the Provinces of Irish Rugby continue their search for United Rugby Championship and Heineken Cup glory, they will do so before full and full-throated crowds again.

It matters from a financial perspective. The FAI’s matchday revenue dropped from €8.1 million to only €300,000 in 2020. Irish Rugby’s numbers will be equally severe and on a bigger scale when the Annual report is published shortly.

2021’s All Ireland Championship revenues will have bounced back from 2020 but to nothing like their previous level and while the government resilience funding has been a lifesaver for the major sports, they all want to be in a position of controlling their own destiny and that is what this allows for.

A statement yesterday from the FAI confirmed that:

The Football Association of Ireland welcomes today’s announcement by Government on the increase in capacity for sporting events from Friday, October 22nd.

In line with this change to Government guidelines, we can now confirm that capacity at the Aviva Stadium will return to 100 per cent for the Republic of Ireland’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Portugal on November 11th.

We are delighted to inform supporters that pre-sale for season ticket holders, Club Ireland members and Corporate Box customers will open on Thursday, October 21st with all stakeholders to be informed of sale details by email.

Public sales for all remaining tickets will commence on from Tuesday, October 26th at 10 am.

Similar positive soundings came from the other major sporting bodies.

There was less enthusiasm from other areas of the sporting world where indoor sport will still likely have to live under a number of restrictions but they will be ironed out and confirmed over the coming days and weeks, presumably after the definitions of late pubs, nightclubs and when we can dance or stand at concerts again has been clarified.



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