All Irish sport to return on June 29th

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All sports, including close-contact sports, can return in Ireland from Monday, June 29th.

The return of sport, along with the re-opening of other places such as gyms, cinemas and churches, has been brought forward to Phase 3 of the government’s plan to re-open Ireland following lockdown.

Individual sports organisations now have the power to decide when to re-commence with matches, leagues and tournaments, with GAA, soccer and rugby likely to return later in the summer.

The GAA had originally decided to delay club football and hurling until the end of July, with inter-county sports set to return in the autumn.

The LGFA, meanwhile, have announced today that the formats for their senior, intermediate and junior competitions will be run in a round-robin format over seven weekends in the autumn, with the top teams advancing to the semi-finals.

Discussions are ongoing regarding the return and future of the League of Ireland, with a potential return date yet to be announced. The FAI have stated that friendly matches can resume on July 11th, with competitive matches allowed to return a week later.

League of Ireland clubs are due to meet early next week to discuss a return date.

Rugby is set to resume in late August with the inter-pros set to go ahead at the Aviva Stadium, with Leinster and Munster set to resume modified training on Monday.

Limited crowds of 200 can also attend outdoor events under the Phase 3 roadmap, which is expected to be increased to 500 people next month.

“We will all need to be careful,” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.

“It will not be as it was before the start of the pandemic and for now sports will take place with very limited numbers of spectators.

“The virus hasn’t gone away.  We are all still susceptible to it.”

In further good news for Irish sport, the government has announced that it will inject €70 million in funding in order to help sporting organizations recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sport Ireland and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.  will invest the funding through newly developed grant schemes.

The GAA, FAI and IRFU are set to receive around €40m of this funding to ensure their “solvency and continued existence.”

The remainder of the funding will be invested across a ‘Sports Restart and Renewal Fund’ (€5 million), a ‘Resilience Fund’ for governing bodies of other sports (up to €10m), and to support clubs whose survival is threatened (€15m).

“The sports sector has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and many sporting bodies and clubs are experiencing significant financial challenges,” Minister Shane Ross said.

“We have had extensive contact with the sector and it is clear that the challenge is enormous and is being felt at every level. While the scale of this package may seem extraordinarily large, it merely reflects the enormity of the challenges being faced by our sporting bodies.”

News of the funding has been received warmly by the GAA, FAI and IRFU, who have all thanked the government for their support.

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

FAI Interim CEO Gary Owens said the funds will be most welcome.

“I also want to thank the Government and all their agencies for their support for Irish football in what has been a very challenging time for everyone.

“Our funds have been tested greatly by the effects of COVID-19 so this funding from Government is most welcome.”

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne also offered thanks, and claimed rugby “has fallen off a cliff” due to the pandemic.

“Since the closedown of the country in March, Irish Rugby’s income has effectively fallen off a cliff and while we have moved quickly to significantly reduce our costs, huge financial pressure will remain our reality until we return to a time when we can welcome supporters back to full stadia across our professional game.”