We are on the brink in terms of Covid-19. The impact that the restrictions we need to conquer the virus will have on sport will be immense. We will learn later today what the detail will be but the likelihood is that we will be going between level four and level five.
Where the dial falls between those two levels will have a material impact. At least there is a sense that last week’s budget has given a strong lifeline to sporting bodies, but it will be tested over the coming weeks and the impact that the actions taken have on the coming months.
For team sports, there will be no games other than at an elite level regardless. This is the same as we are currently under in level three.
It means that each of the main field sports of the GAA, Rugby and Soccer will be able to continue in non-contact group training, limited to pods of 15.
Each of the sports will make its own call on that taking into account the views of members and the general swell of public opinion.
Most of the clubs have taken their responsibilities very seriously and there seems to be little evidence of community transmission through training sessions.
The trade-off in terms of the ability of players to socialise in a safe fashion at a time when every other part of their world is narrowing looks like a safe one and we hope the ability to do so, in an outdoor environment can last as long as it can.
Tennis and golf clubs can also remain open at Level four and both sporting bodies have done plenty of work on communicating the differences that will apply to level four as they have already been in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.
Gym and Swim
Gyms and Swimming Pools are the main areas to suffer if there is a shift from level three to level four with the letter of the ‘Living with Covid Plan suggesting that all have to close.
Whether there can be a carve out of that so that they remain open in limited circumstances, as is the case with restaurants and pubs even if only in well-ventilated areas, that would be a bonus and one that could make all the difference for a number of facilities as well as those who use them.
Indoor sports are in a harder place with limited room to manoeuvre.
Level four retains the exemption for elite level sport to continue behind closed doors. This is vital for the conclusion of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, due to return next weekend, the Gaelic Games Championships across all four codes, the SSE Airtricity League and the start of the National Hunt Racing season and greyhound racing.
At level five there is a blanket ban, on paper, but there is a sense that the same exemption may be applied for elite sport.
The value in terms of morale and mental wellbeing of maintaining sport is unquestioned. The players have indicated their general willingness to take part and there will be every effort made to make sure that things are done in as safe a fashion as possible.
There can be no slipping back to the celebration scenes witnessed at a limited number of clubs, even if a county excels in a historic fashion.
When we faced this level of restriction in the spring the evenings were getting longer, the sun shone and there was a sense that it would all be over quickly if we did what was asked.
Now the opposite is the case. The clocks are going back this weekend and the desire to get out and exercise will be less. That will impact further on mental wellbeing and a willingness to ‘stay together by staying apart.’
These are the biggest decisions which an Irish Government has had to face perhaps in the history of the state. We need to give them time and space to get it right. In return they need to do just that.
Sport for Business tomorrow will be devoted in the main to looking at the impact that whatevcer decisions are made will have across each sport, and at how one major sponsor has activated in a crowd free environment.
Sport for Business Partners