Spectators will not need to be vaccinated to attend pilot sporting events from next week, but mandatory mask-wearing and physical distancing will be enforced, Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers has confirmed.
Mr Chambers said stadiums will initially operate at 5-10 per cent capacity, but this could increase from early July. Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme, Mr Chambers said the government was putting in place a “clear path back” for spectators to return to sporting events.
Plans are in place for 15 pilot events from June 11, involving a range of sports including GAA, rugby, football, athletics and golf.
Mr Chambers said his department had tried to ensure a mix of men’s and women’s games, with offers across the country.
“We try to produce a really controlled environment. . . We are trying to build trust for a safe return for low-risk spectators,” he said.
Tickets for these events will be issued by sports organizations to a named recipient and the identity of the ticket holder will be checked upon entering the stadium, it said. There will be staggered entries and exits to events, with “strict rules” to control crowds at entry points and spectators assigned to specific “areas”. “Active travel” to and from the games will also be encouraged, Mr Chambers said. Food and drink will not be permitted initially, he confirmed.
“After each event and pilot, there will be a debriefing, and the lessons learned will be compiled and shared with all other sports organisations,” he added.
Antigen tests can be used at some of the pilot events, but that will be decided on a “case-by-case basis”, he said. If a confirmed case of the virus is identified among attendees, other spectators will be contacted through their tickets, he said. Mr Chambers said it was important to get fans back to games because “it’s outdoors, it’s safe, it’s remote and there’s mask-wearing”.
Meanwhile, 100 fans will be allowed to attend local matches in June, rising to 200 spectators in July. Outdoor matches are allowed to take place from June 7. The stadiums with a capacity of 5,000 people will be able to accommodate 200 spectators per match from June and 500 from July. “Clear protocols” will be issued by sporting bodies, Chambers added.