Wednesday 18 September 2019

How GAA fans will be hit hard if Britain crashes out of the EU

The GAA waits on planning permission for Casement Park. Photo: SPORTSFILE
The GAA waits on planning permission for Casement Park. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Brexit is already causing a problem for the GAA - and worse will follow if Britain crashes out of the EU and a hard Border is built.

Sterling's weakening exchange rate with the euro, which is the GAA's official currency, has increased costs for supporters from the Six Counties attending games south of the Border, while a return to checkpoints would be an even bigger concern.

"The devaluation of the pound against the euro since the Brexit referendum has had a big effect," said Ulster Council secretary Brian McAvoy.

"Before the referendum €20 equalled around £14, but now it's £18. The weakening of sterling may have had an impact on attendances at some games and has undoubtedly increased running costs for clubs and counties in the North."

The currency differential means an €80 All-Ireland final ticket equated to around £56 before the Brexit referendum but is now close to £72.

A return to checkpoints, which were so disruptive during the Troubles, would also have a significant impact on a North-south organisation like the GAA, where county and club teams cross the Border on a regular basis.

"Those of us who are old enough to remember those days know exactly what it was like and we certainly don't want to go back to them," said Mr McAvoy.

"There was no way of knowing how long it would take to cross the Border going either way so you had to leave yourself a lot of extra time to get to a game. A return to that would be very bad news for the GAA."

Nor is he convinced that, even if a hard Border is avoided, a frictionless alternative will work smoothly.

"We keep hearing about how well it works between USA and Canada, and between France and Switzerland. I've been through both of them and I'll tell you, there can be long delays," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr McAvoy remains hopeful that a decision on the re-submitted planning application for the redevelopment of the GAA's Casement Park in Belfast will be given soon.

"It was lodged on February 28, 2017, and is still in the system. All we can do is wait," he said.

The absence of a Northern Ireland Executive is understood to be a major factor in the delay, as civil servants are not empowered to grant planning permission for major projects.

The GAA has committed to contribute €19m to the 34,500 capacity stadium, which has been closed since 2013.

Irish Independent

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