Provincial Council of Britain president Paul Foley has reiterated that GAA activities will not return in the UK until 20 July at the earliest, despite competitive sport in the UK getting the green light to recommence this week.
UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, announced on Saturday that domestic competitive sport behind closed doors can restart from 1 June, as part of phase three of the UK Government’s Covid-19 exit strategy.
From 1 June people are now also able to exercise outside with up to five others from different households, provided that social distancing guidelines are followed.
That will allow people who play team sports meet up to train together, for conditioning or fitness sessions for example. Physical contact is not permitted.
However, on 6 May Croke Park instructed its clubs and counties to “refrain from organising on-field activity” until 20 July, and Mr Foley says the GAA will not be deviating from that.
“The risk of a player bringing the virus back into their own house, having picked it up from a team gathering, is a risk we should not be taking,” Mr Foley told the Irish World.
“It is incredible to think that you are not allowed to shake hands with your own dad, but yet being part of a group that is shadowing, tackling and shoving another group of players round a football field is ok.”
Provincial Council of Britain released a statement on 1 June to “clarify” its position on response to the UK Government’s announcement.
The council confirmed that all fixtures remain “postponed indefinitely” until “a return to ‘normal’ can be implemented in a safe fashion”. All GAA facilities and training “remain suspended/closed”.
“Further to recent announcements from different Governments bodies we wish to clarify the Provincial Council of Britain GAA position on all GAA activities in our jurisdiction.
“The Council will, when it is safe to do so advice all units in line with GAA advice, the current government measures at the time and our own operational & games requirements. Our Members, Counties & Clubs welfare is paramount in our considerations, as is the wider community we are part off. At this moment there is no change to our statement issued on the 11th. May 2020.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and continue to keep you updated.
“All fixtures are currently postponed indefinitely until a return to ‘normal’ can be implemented in a safe fashion. All GAA facilities, training & games are to remain suspended/closed. We expect all meetings to be arranged by Microsoft Teams or other suitable digital medium. These measures are expected to remain in place until July 20th at the earliest.”
Provincial Council of Britain statement 1 June 2020
Council said: “These measures are expected to remain in place until July 20th at the earliest.”
They added that they will continue to “monitor the situation closely” and keep its members updated.
“The Council will, when it is safe to do so advice all units in line with GAA advice, the current government measures at the time and our own operational and games requirements,” the Council said.
“Our members, counties and clubs welfare is paramount in our considerations, as is the wider community we are part of.”
Croke Park confirmed in its latest Covid-19 update (29 May) that a possible move to Phase Two on 8 June of the Irish Government’s road map, relating to the relaxation of restrictions, could see GAA clubs re-open designated walking tracks.
The GAA said that is does “not envisage a return to training in small groups in Phase Two and pitches and playing areas are to remain closed”. It “currently considers Gaelic games a ‘Phase 4’ sport”.
It has also been confirmed that the GAA’s Covid-19 advisory group is due to release its return-to-play road map “in the coming days”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Sunday Game, advisory group member Dick Clerkin, chair of the Croke Park medical, scientific and welfare committee, said that they were in the “final stages” of putting it together.
The road map will encompass “players, members, from recreational, juveniles, club, county” and how phasing GAA activity back in will look “over the next number of months”. All plans will remain in line with the “Government’s pathway”.
Mr Foley added: “All decisions of any return will be made under advice from medical experts on the GAA Covid-19 Advisory Committee and Medical, Scientific and Player Welfare Committee.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) May 27, 2020
“[The UK] Government statement on 1 June reopening puts all responsibility on sports’ governing bodies to risk manage the return to activity including the testing of players.
“Provincial Council of Britain covers activity on the whole of the island of Britain, which currently has three different governments sending out three different messages, so we will stick with the advice of the scientists and not the politicians.”
Horse racing and snooker in the UK resumed from 1 June with the Premier League set to restart from 17 June. The second-tier Championship will follow three days later.
Football, tennis, horse racing, Formula 1, cricket, golf, rugby and snooker will all return in “carefully controlled environments”.
They will be subject to a number of key protocols, including protagonists travelling separately to and from games and minimising dressing room usage.