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Work under way to get more sports fans into stadiums, Oireachtas committee told

Government officials said they ‘recognise that it is a very pressing matter’, amid coronavirus restrictions.

Image: PA

WORK IS UNDER way to increase the number of sports spectators permitted to attend large stadiums across the country, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

A Government official said that while there is a “bit of flexibility” in the coronavirus roadmap published earlier this week, there are a number of challenges around plans on the proposed return of fans to stadiums.

Under current regulations, only 100 spectators are allowed to attend outdoor matches, and 200 at venues which hold a minimum of 5,000 people.

Level one measures would see 500 fans return to stadiums which hold a minimum of 5,000 people.

John Kelly, acting assistant secretary at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said work is beginning but it will take some time.

Kelly, who appeared by video link, said: “There is a bit of work to be done there, there is a bit of flexibility there in the roadmap but there are a number of challenges.

It’s not just how large it is, it’s to do with the entrance, the exit, the congregation before and afterwards, and obviously social distancing within it.

Sinn Fein’s Chris Andrews asked when the work will be completed.

He added: “There are over 20 stadiums across Ireland with a safe capacity of over 15,000 spectators.”

Peter Hogan, principal officer at the department, said: “The group met for the first time yesterday and I can assure you we recognise that it is a very pressing matter and that it is very important for the sport sector, for sporting bodies concerned and the wider sector as well and indeed for society, to see a return to spectating in a safe way.

“We want to continue in the way we have done throughout this process, to be safe and do it in the right way.

“We will be moving forward as quickly as can be done, there is a bit of work to be done.

“We will bring that to the public health team so we can start to see a return to safe spectating in the larger venues.”

The Government announced €70 million of funding in June for National Governing Bodies (NGB) of sport, local sports partnerships and sports clubs in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

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embedded4301008 John Treacy, chief executive of Sport Ireland, said there has been a high level of interest in support from sporting bodies . Source: Oireachtas TV/PA

Funding of up to €40 million was made available for the three main field sports organisations – the FAI, the GAA and the IRFU.

A resilience fund of up to €10 million was made available to support the NGB and a Sports Club Resilience Fund of up to €15 million was announced to support clubs.

The application process closed earlier this week.

John Treacy, chief executive of Sport Ireland, said: “Sport Ireland has received a high volume of applications, including 39 NGBs who have in turn made applications on behalf of their extensive club network.

“It is anticipated that an announcement of funding allocations will be made in October 2020.”

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