Sligo Champion

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Too many obstacles in the way of sport's return


Sligo Rovers v Shamrock Rovers.

Sligo Rovers v Shamrock Rovers.

Sligo Rovers v Shamrock Rovers.

I have reached the point of this Covid-19 lockdown where I can no longer take any more nostalgic articles about Saipan. The issue of whether Roy Keane was in the wrong or not hasn't been cleared up by the dozens upon dozens of articles witten in the last few weeks to fill the pages of sports sections of regional and national newspapers.

The 'classic' games on television seemed like a saviour at first, but that excitement has died out. Now we're in a position where the return of sport is becoming a talking point. It's a complex issue and while the numbers of new cases of Covid-19 recorded in the country are gradually decreasing, it still feels wrong to try and force sport back for our enjoyment, when there are bigger issues at play. It's not just a health issue.

There are, of course, health concerns for those who would be involved. Sharing dressing rooms, tackling, the general close contact that comes with, well, contact sports, has all been looked into and investigated.

The FAI are trying their level best to find a way to get the League of Ireland back here, but money talks. And just because leagues around Europe can return, and indeed the Premier League, doesn't mean the League of Ireland should. Where TV money is as significant as it is in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A among others, it makes it that bit easier. These leagues, clubs, players etc are not dependant on gates to keep the show on the road. Here in Ireland, for clubs who run a tight ship, every single euro counts.

And every single person coming through the turnstiles can make a big financial difference.

If Sligo Rovers or Cork City feel it is not financially viable for football to return behind closed doors, where does the league go? It's alright for clubs on the receiving end of European money to try their best to force everyone's hand.

But why should other clubs put themselves in a precarious financial position, with only paltry sums of funding looking likely, just so that Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk, Derry City and Bohemian can go and play in Europe? It is of no benefit to other Irish clubs.

There is also the issue of whether or not players would feel comfortable returning. The players union, the PFAI, say that the majority are keen to return, and with no positive tests recorded among the four clubs competing in Europe, there are calls for the league to return ASAP. But the uncertainty looks like it will continue for a lot longer. Players living abroad may not be able to return to Ireland, what happens if clubs do not have full squads?

And if the League of Ireland senior teams cannot return, what becomes of the underage teams?

The GAA have a similar headache, as do the IRFU and most sporting organising across the country. Sport is somewhat insignificant in the bigger picture.

But, if life does start returning to normal, there will always be talk of sport and where that will fit in.

It should not be rushed, but it will all have to return at some point and it's vital that the right measures are in place to help clubs survive, whatever sport it is.

Of course, we all miss it. Whether we're more accustomed to the misery or the joy, life isn't the same without the live sport experience. It just feels like there are too many obstacles in the way. For now.

But for wow, it looks like re-runs of Italia 90 will have to make do.

Sligo Champion