GAA president John Horan has revealed that Croke Park will not be at full capacity “until social distancing is lifted” but he is confident that up to 42,000 spectators could be present for championship games later this year if social distancing is reduced to one metre.
The GAA’s roadmap to return will see inter-county action resume in October and while Horan is keen to get GAA HQ up and running once again for the delayed championship, it will be scarcely recognisable compared to pre-Covid days.
Horan believes that Croke Park could comfortably hold 21,000 spectators if Government regulations on crowd sizes are increased but he stressed that there is likely to be a “lottery” for tickets while seating on Hill 16 is a possibility given the lack of control over crowds on terraces.
“We’ve already worked it out that if the Government allow larger crowds to gather, over the 5,000 that they currently have, we could probably put 21,000 into Croke Park safely,” Horan told Na Fianna GAA TV.
GAA president John Horan. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
“The operations team in Croke Park have mapped it out. That blue mesh that is used in Croke Park would be used to block off seats but we feel that we could safely get a crowd of 21,000 into Croke Park.
“It would cause practicalities in terms of there’d be an element of lottery for tickets. Premium ticket holders would probably have to get a credit into the following year and just do a lottery on the tickets that are actually there available for games going forward.
“Until social distancing is scaled back, we just won’t be able to pack Croke Park, it is our intention to get it open and get it going once the inter-county games start. If it goes back to one metre, we’ll be able to double the attendance to 42,000.
“There’s an issue over the Hill whether we’d have to put seating in there because really controlling crowds on terraces is always going to be a nightmare going forward.”
Meanwhile, a former member of the GAA’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee has expressed his satisfaction with the course of action taken by the Association during the pandemic so far but sounds a note of caution as they begin to re-open their premises.
“They had to be cautious and they went to the ultra-cautious end of it when they didn’t re-open their grounds while other sports facilities are currently opening,” said Tyrone’s three-time All-Ireland winner Enda McGinley.
“I think their handling of the situation so far has been good. They have been very clear and decisive during the whole lockdown period. It is more difficult to be clear and decisive in terms of opening up.”