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GAA president John Horan in plea to Government to allow 500 people at matches

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Kerry supporter flies her flag

Kerry supporter flies her flag

SPORTSFILE

LIMITED VIEWING: Spectators look on during a club challenge between match Fingallians and Clontarf at Lawless Memorial Park in Swords last week

LIMITED VIEWING: Spectators look on during a club challenge between match Fingallians and Clontarf at Lawless Memorial Park in Swords last week

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Kerry supporter flies her flag

GAA president John Horan has asked the Government to grant permission for up to 500 people to attend games in the coming weeks while insisting that the recent change in attendance guidelines is "a hammer blow to the organisation".

The Government's decision to pause entry to Phase 4 of the Covid-19 roadmap permits just 200 people to attend games until mid-August, something Horan wants to see changed after clubs and counties had been prepared to host 500 people from Monday onwards.

"The change in attendance guidelines has delivered a hammer blow to the organisation," Horan told RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland programme today.

"We put the return to the club game first to benefit our members and help county boards survive but county boards were relying on an increase to 500 as a way of being able to cater for the demand on the ground from our supporters.

"They now have the extra burden of continuing to police 200 being in attendance. If you take those involved in the teams and stewarding out of it, you're probably looking at 120 supporters going to a game.

"If you work out the dimensions of a GAA pitch, that allows for social distancing of four metres between everybody attending the match. We have also encouraged everybody to wear face-masks, so I think these figures are a bit severe on us as an organisation.

"And I openly call on the Taoiseach (Micheál Martin) and Tánaiste (Leo Varadkar) to go back and review those figures for us as an organisation. The risk factor outside is 1 in 19 in comparison to indoors. We have stadia throughout the country which can cater from anything from 6,000 to 50,000 people.

"To say that you can only have 120 supporters put in...I think the volunteers in our organisation acted totally responsibly in this pandemic and I don't think if we allowed them to increase the attendance from 200 to 500 that they would act irresponsibly.

"All we are trying to do is get people to be active outside and there is a pent-up demand for people to go to these matches. I don't think by calling for an increase from 200 to 500 that I'm putting public health or anybody at risk.

"We have put a lot of education and protocols in place to protect those involved in our games and I think it is a safe call to say we could cater for 500 in our stadia."

As regards the rapid rise in younger people contracting Covid-19 in recent weeks, Horan was unequivocal about the choice which must be made while complimenting clubs for their response to any Coronavirus scares.

"They have got to make a clear decision. Either you party or you play sport. Sport and partying are not going to work at the moment because it's partying that has brought many of these challenges to our doors as regards to the virus," he said.

"GAA clubs are mingled into society and society has the pandemic out there so it was always going to come to the door of the clubs. But the one thing I would credit all our officers and people within our clubs with, they have complied with the guidelines we have given them.

"Clubs that had a case arising on the club or near the club have actually applied the guidelines, contacted public health, and most of those clubs have reopened immediately."

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