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GAA strategy gets backing

Conservative plan seen as fully justified

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GOOD JOB: Jack Anderson (left) believes the GAA is following the right protocols
to get back to play. Photo: Brian Arthur/ Press 22

GOOD JOB: Jack Anderson (left) believes the GAA is following the right protocols to get back to play. Photo: Brian Arthur/ Press 22

GOOD JOB: Jack Anderson (left) believes the GAA is following the right protocols to get back to play. Photo: Brian Arthur/ Press 22

A leading sports law expert says the GAA were fully justified in adopting a conservative approach to devising their return-to-play roadmap, rejecting recent criticism of the plan.

Jack Anderson, Professor and Director of Sports Law Studies at the University of Melbourne, told the Herald that it was incumbent upon Croke Park to take necessary precautions in order to protect their members given the burden of responsibility they will inherit during the phased resumption of activity.

"The big danger with this is community transmission," Prof. Anderson, a native of Limerick, pointed out. "And for many parts of Ireland, the GAA is the community. So they have to be cautious.

Responsibility

"They have an onerous responsibility. And the way they're set up organisationally, once activity starts again, that responsibility is passed down to volunteers.

"There's no precedent for this," Anderson went on. "There's no protocols that you can take off the shelf. If you're dealing with something like concussion in sport, there's protocols. There's research.

"But you're learning on the day with this one. So it's very difficult. And for the GAA, there's so many variables.

"You have four codes. All different age groups. Players, social aspects, the economic side of it, public health…so much that they have to take into account."

Among the most consistent critics of the GAA's approach has been former Meath footballer Colm O'Rourke, who insisted it was "at odds with Government policy and the majority of members' views," in his Sunday Independent column.

Anderson, a former secretary of the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA), stated on this Twitter account that this criticism was "misinformed and misplaced."

Expanding the point, he said: "A lot of the time we knock the GAA for various things, but this isn't some fixture sub-committee or a playing rules task force, whose work you can criticise, but in the large scale of things, it doesn't really matter."

"This, on the other hand, is really important stuff. And I think they've got it right."

He also cited the level of expertise on their Advisory Committee as proof that the GAA had observed best practice in conceiving their plan.

"Just look at the people who are involved: Mary Horgan from UCC, one of the top infectious disease experts in the world. Look at the doctors - these are not doctors with no experience of the GAA. People like Pat O'Neill, with extensive experience at all levels.

"This is a good task force and they've produced a good document."

Much of the criticism directed at the GAA on this issue has been over their unwillingness to restart activity in line with Government protocol.

Observed

As of last Monday, up to 15 people can train together outdoors where distancing can be observed and people are free to travel anywhere within their county boundaries.

Despite this, there will be no activity on GAA pitches until June 29, while full training for club teams is pencilled in for a July 20 return.

Anderson, however, believes the strength of the plan is in its flexibility.

"It's prescriptive in that it has all the details of when different levels of activity can resume and under what conditions," he said. "From opening the field to inter-county championships.

"And it's dynamic as well. The thing about risk assessment is, you produce a document and you leave it there. But the GAA have said, 'This is dynamic - we're going to constantly look at it and update it'."