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A disaster for the GAA

'We won't be able to field teams next year'

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GAA and FAI activity has been badly affected as they face at least four more weekends with drastically reduced attendances.

GAA and FAI activity has been badly affected as they face at least four more weekends with drastically reduced attendances.

SPORTSFILE

GAA and FAI activity has been badly affected as they face at least four more weekends with drastically reduced attendances.

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 felt the news was "shattering" and insists that the Lake county will be unable to field teams next year as a result of the revenue lost through lack 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 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.

"This future for the GAA is bleak. We could have ten teams playing for the Sam Maguire and maybe eight for the Liam MacCarthy next year."

Rugby chiefs had hoped for increased attendances ahead of the Pro14's return with a marquee clash of Leinster and Munster at Lansdowne Road on August 22.

The decision is also a blow to the League of Ireland, while keeping the limit of 200 is a concern for the FAI ahead of their proposed senior international at home to Finland next month.

The inability to allow in any paying supporters would be a fresh worry, with uncertainty over the Nations League games away to Bulgaria and at home to Finland even going ahead.

And the FAI also have a new Covid-19 scare to contend with as the association revealed that a second player from Waterford FC had been sent for testing after reporting Covid-19 like symptoms. Waterford’s Premier Division game against Sligo

Rovers, listed for yesterday, was postponed after a Blues player reported Covid-like symptoms and was sent for testing. The club doctor, Dr Sinéad Fitzpatrick, last night resigned her position but on explanation has been given.

When the 2020 League of Ireland season resumed last Friday there was a limit of 200 on all attendees at games, including players and ground staff, as was the case for all outdoor sporting events.

Clubs had hoped to boost attendances to 500 if the cabinet had agreed to up that limit.

Financial

There would have been little or no financial boon for clubs from the extra fans attending as clubs would have to offer access to season ticket holders or club members who had already paid for the season but crowds of up to 500 would have at least improved the atmosphere at games. But following that Cabinet decision the limit remains at 200.

The FAI will also assess the implications for the attendance for that planned home international against Finland, which is still on the calendar for September 6, just after a planned qualifier in Bulgaria, though it’s increasingly likely that the away Nations League game next month will be played at a neutral venue, or possibly not at all.