Major sporting events across Ireland are to face further setbacks after the Irish government confirmed that all mass gatherings of over 5,000 people will be banned until 1 September.
The new restrictions will impact the 2020 All-Ireland championships, the League of Ireland, racing festivals and a number of other sporting events.
Issuing a statement, government sources have said that local authorities will be told not to grant licences for large events in this period due to the coronavirus crisis.
The Interim CEO of Football Association Ireland, Gary Owens, has called for a meeting with the government to discuss the impact of the latest ruling on the SSE Airtricity League and also its potential effect on international football if it is extended into September.
The association had originally earmarked 19 June as a possible date for recommencing the League of Ireland, with plans to resume the Women’s National League a week later. Following the latest government statement, however, this date appears increasingly unlikely.
Owens told FAI TV: “This is breaking news this evening and in two respects for us. The obvious question is, can we hold the international matches in the autumn period?
“We really need to be able to hold those matches and have mass gatherings in September. Hopefully we can get to the end of August and that 5,000 limit will be increased.
“That is a significant input and we need to take that into account, along with all the other factors which we are now analysing in advance of making a decision on the 5th of May when the Government will make their formal decision known.
“Like everything else, the devil is in the detail. We really need to understand what they mean by 5,000 in terms of mass gatherings and whether that applies in stadiums and what are the criteria we would have to comply with.
“We have been working with the medical team in Uefa who are helping us with guidelines, but obviously, we need to talk to the HSE and try and understand whether or not they would allow mass gatherings in football stadiums and if they do up to that level of 5,000, that could be a significant breakthrough for us.”
Meanwhile a statement issued on behalf of Balybrit Racecourse, which is due to host the Galway Festival, has suggested that this year’s festival could possibly still go ahead behind closed doors.
Manager of Ballybrit racecourse, Michael Moloney, confirmed that the festival ‘will not be able to take place as an event open to the general public this year’.
The statement said: “In light of the evolving situation regarding Covid-19, for public health and safety reasons Galway Race Committee has reached the difficult but unavoidable decision that the 2020 Galway Races Summer Festival, due to be held from Monday 27th July to Sunday 2nd August will not be able to take place as an event open to the general public this year. We know this will be a huge disappointment for all our racegoers that attend year on year.
“It may prove possible to run the Galway Races behind closed doors, dependent on Government policy and the approval of Horse Racing Ireland and Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board.
“This would be for the benefit of the racing industry, our valued partners and our television audiences at home and internationally. We are currently planning for this scenario and we will update you on progress as and when we can.”