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Let the games finally begin with the long walk back to normality

John Greene


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FAI Chairman Roy Barrett welcomed the money. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

FAI Chairman Roy Barrett welcomed the money. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

FAI Chairman Roy Barrett welcomed the money. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

At last, light at the end of the tunnel. And some cash too. The dog days are over; the dog days are done. As the song goes. Or nearly over, at least.

On Friday, the double announcement of a €70m rescue package for Irish sport, and confirmation that all sport can resume from tomorrow week, came as a very welcome shot in the arm to the national mood. (Why tomorrow week? Why not next weekend so we can make the most of it? Or maybe it's best not to quibble, for now anyway.)

The money is welcome. Yes, money is always welcome in sport, but it's different this time. This is not money for old rope, building grand monuments and the like. No, this is about survival.

My local GAA club has been struggling. With no funds coming in, and a lot of pressure from the GAA at county and national level to pay up the balance due for annual insurance and competition fees (even though there are no competitions), officials were feeling the heat. It's a pity that for clubs around the country, the pressure to pay bills during the lockdown was coming from its own organisation, and not the banks. Long after this is all over, and things have returned to some kind of normal, the memory of that pressure will leave a bitter taste.

Not to say that some of the €70m will make it's way to this part of the world. It won't, at least not directly. But it will help sporting organisations to fill some of the massive hole which has been left in their finances by this four-month shutdown.

Even when sport does begin to return, it will be some time before it even closely resembles what we were used to, and took for granted. There won't be a steady stream of income for the time being. There won't be big crowds at games and any of this year's money-spinning competitions which are salvaged from the coronavirus wreckage will be significantly curtailed versions.

This applies even at local level. In the GAA, for instance, county boards derive decent income from sponsorship and gate receipts of local championships and that will be badly affected by the shortened season.

So, the GAA, FAI and IRFU will get €40m from the rescue package. Then, €10m has been earmarked for the national governing bodies, and a further €15m will be made available to support clubs from all of the NGBs. The clubs must demonstrate they are in dire need of financial assistance. The final €5m has been designated as a 'restart and renewal fund' for clubs not eligible in the other categories.

There will have been a collective sigh of relief across Irish sport this weekend. Of course, it's not enough - it's never enough. But, for now, it will help sport get off its knees.

"This financial assistance will go a long way in helping sports organisations who are facing particular financial difficulty to get back to business and to adapt to the new reality as restrictions lift," said the Federation of Irish Sport.

"Our funds have been tested greatly by the effects of Covid-19 so this funding is most welcome," said FAI chairperson Roy Barrett.

"So now obviously we need to get the detail, what do we need to do to help our clubs and to help the game throughout the country," said Basketball Ireland CEO Bernard O'Byrne.

"This funding will greatly assist our units in the weeks and months ahead as they prepare for a return to activity," said the GAA.

Let the games begin.

Sunday Indo Sport