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Coronavirus: Ireland's Euro playoff could be behind closed doors while GAA plan on League games going ahead

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Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, right, and Slovakia manager Pavel Hapal following the UEFA Euro 2020 playoff draw at UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland last November. Photo by UEFA via Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, right, and Slovakia manager Pavel Hapal following the UEFA Euro 2020 playoff draw at UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland last November. Photo by UEFA via Sportsfile

UEFA via Getty Images

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, right, and Slovakia manager Pavel Hapal following the UEFA Euro 2020 playoff draw at UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland last November. Photo by UEFA via Sportsfile

Ireland's Euro 2020 playoff in Slovakia could be played behind closed doors, while the GAA currently have no plans to cancel or postpone any of their scheduled matches as the global spread of coronavirus COVID-19 continues to claim major global sporting events.

The Slovakian FA say they will "respect" the decision of national health authorities if they declare that the Euro 2020 playoff against Ireland in Bratislava has to be played behind closed doors.

Local and national bodies in Slovakia have this week taken steps to stop the spread of Coronavirus there, with secondary schools and some universities in the capital closed for two weeks, while museums and other tourist attractions have also been closed.

A game in the domestic hockey league in Bratislava next weekend, in a stadium only 900 metres from the football stadium which hosts the playoff, will be played behind closed doors and hockey officials are expected to make the same condition for all other games.

The Slovak FA met today to discuss the Coronavirus crisis and they have called off all underage leagues for the time being. No decision was taken on the senior domestic leagues or the Euro 2020 playoff in 17 days' time, but they will continue to monitor the situation, though the likelihood of a behind-closed-doors game for Ireland in Bratislava has increased.

"The SFZ will fully respect the decision of the Chief Health Officer of the Slovak Republic regarding the presence of spectators at the Euro 2020 match," the FA said today.

"Should there be an instruction to play this game in the absence of spectators, the SFZ [Slovak FA] guarantees the return of all money spent on the purchase of tickets.

Over 2,200 Irish fans are due to travel to Slovakia.

The Football Association of Ireland is in communication with the Slovakian FA and local authorities regarding the playoff and is also engaged in talks around the fixture with UEFA and the Irish Embassy in Slovakia.

As of Monday, the game is scheduled to go ahead as planned but talks will continue involving all parties. The Slovakian FA are in constant communication with their Government and health officials and will inform us immediately of any update.

The FAI will continue to heed the advice of the Irish Government and UEFA in relation to this game and will relay any news around the fixtures to supporters and staff as soon as it becomes available.

Meanwhile, the GAA have said they currently have no plans to cancel or postpone National League matches, but a spokesperson for Croke Park insisted, however, that they are taking a watching brief on other public events, both in Ireland and abroad, and maintaining close dialogue with the HSE.

Any decision to cancel or postpone fixtures will be done on HSE advice, they stressed.

There are 21 league fixtures scheduled across Saturday and Sunday in football and hurling and two All-Ireland Under-20 football semi-finals scheduled for Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day.

GAA chief executive Tom Ryan led a Croke Park delegation to government buildings last Friday to consult with staff at the Health Department on an appropriate course of action.

On foot of these meetings, a HSE document was circulated to each county board and club on Saturday morning advising the provision of extra supplies of hand sanitiser and encouraging all members to wash their hands thoroughly before attending matches.

Some clubs and counties advised against players shaking hands before or after games although this was not part of the official document.

In a statement published this morning, Mayo GAA insisted their advice was "updated based on the latest information from the Health Service Executive and Department of Health.

"A sub-group of Mayo GAA Executive are in contact regularly to assess our community’s needs and to provide up-to-date information and advice to ensure minimal impact to all our GAA communities."

Already, Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Italy and their fixture with France, originally fixed for this Saturday, have been postponed.

Yesterday, France banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus as the death toll from the outbreak increased to 19 with 1,126 cases confirmed nationwide.

This morning, Paris police force announced that the Champions League game between PSG and Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday will be played behind closed doors at Parc des Princes.

It is the second game of the competition that will be played without fans as last week Valencia announced that their second leg against Atlanta would also be played behind closed doors.

In Italy, several Serie A games have been played with no spectators, including the top-of-the-table game between Juventus and Inter at Turin’s Allianz Stadium last night.

Online Editors