Spectators will not need to be vaccinated to attend pilot sports 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 operate at five to 10 per cent capacity initially, but this could increase from early July. Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme, Mr Chambers said the Government is putting in place a “clear pathway back” for spectators to be able to return to sports events.
Plans are in place for 15 pilot events from June 11th, involving a range of sports including GAA, rugby, football, athletics and golf.
Mr Chambers said his Department has tried to ensure there is a mix of male and female games, with offerings around the country.
“We are trying to produce a really controlled environment . . . We are trying to build confidence for a safe return for spectators at low risk,” he said.
Tickets to these events will be issued by sporting organisations to a named recipient and the identity of the ticket-holder will be verified upon entry to the stadium, he said. There will be staggered entries and exits to events, with “strict rules” to control crowds at entry points and spectators assigned to specific “zones”. “Active travel” to and from games will also be encouraged, Mr Chambers said. Food and drink will not be allowed initially, he confirmed.
“After each event and pilot there will be a debrief, and learnings that are taken away will be compiled and shared with all the other sporting organisations,” he added.
Antigen testing may be used at some of the pilot events, but this 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 contact-traced through their tickets, he said. Mr Chambers said it is important to get fans back to games, as “it is outdoors, it is safe, it is at a distance and there is mask wearing”.
Meanwhile, 100 fans will be allowed to attend local matches in June, moving to 200 spectators in July. Outdoor matches are allowed to take place from June 7th. Stadiums with a capacity for 5,000 people will be allowed to welcome 200 spectators per match from June and 500 from July. “Clear protocols” will be issued by sporting bodies, Mr Chambers added.