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'The future is bleak. We could have 10 teams playing for Sam Maguire and maybe eight for Liam MacCarthy next year'

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Westmeath GAA chairman Billy Foley says the county won't be able to field teams in 2021 if the current restriction on spectators continues. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Westmeath GAA chairman Billy Foley says the county won't be able to field teams in 2021 if the current restriction on spectators continues. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Westmeath GAA chairman Billy Foley says the county won't be able to field teams in 2021 if the current restriction on spectators continues. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

THE catastrophic effects of GAA grounds being restricted to 200 people for games until September at the earliest will result in several inter-county teams being unable to field teams next year, according to Westmeath chairman Billy Foley.

It was hoped that crowds at outdoor events would increase to 500 when Government officials met yesterday, but the status quo remains with GAA and FAI activity badly affected as they face at least four more weekends with drastically reduced attendances.

Having jumped through hoops to ensure that GAA games went ahead in recent weeks amid the coronavirus, Foley said the news was "shattering" and believes the Lake County will be unable to field teams next year as a result of the revenue lost through the loss of gate receipts.

"The reality is that if this continues, there will be no Westmeath county teams in 2021. We will not have the money to run county teams in 2021, we’ll struggle on until the end of this year and God only knows what happens after that," an angry Foley said.

"We were trying to get training fields and we were budgeting for a surplus this year but we’re going to run into something like a €200,000 loss.

"This is not sustainable and that’s the reality that we’re facing.

"Ourselves and Offaly, Laois, Clare and Carlow are very similar in that we do run the two codes as best we can. The reality is that we will not be running county teams next year because we will not be able to afford to do so.

"This future for the GAA is bleak. We could have 10 teams playing for the Sam Maguire and maybe eight for the Liam MacCarthy next year. It’s shattering to any county but small counties in particular, the big counties will probably survive all right."

Foley believes that maintaining crowd restrictions outdoors amid the threat of Covid-19 "is not a common sense decision" and he shot down the notion that Government officials were taking an "all-Ireland approach".

"They talked about an all-Ireland approach, there’s 400 people allowed into the games up the North, double to what’s here. It is not an all-Ireland approach and it makes our task as a county board almost impossible.

"We have done everything with regards to the safety procedures, we ran our games in the past two weeks all ticket, all the county board officials have been abused by people looking to get into games.

"It’s inexplicable that only 200 people can still be allowed into large stadiums.”"

League of Ireland fixtures will also take a significant hit having resumed in recent days with skeleton crowds while rugby chiefs had hoped for increased attendances ahead of the Pro14’s return with the marquee clash between Leinster and Munster at Lansdowne Road on August 22.

That will not be the case as the Government continues to act with extreme caution in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases around the country.

Meanwhile, the GAA were in contact with approximately 26,000 season-ticket holders yesterday to inform them that the Association is cancelling the season ticket for the remainder of 2020 and issuing a partial refund of €40 for adult tickets and €10 for juvenile tickets.

Online Editors