Saturday 16 May 2020

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross and the Minister of State with responsibility for Sport, Brendan Griffin, TD, today announced the establishment of an Expert Group. This group will provide guidance to Ireland’s sporting bodies to prepare for the phased return to sporting activity in line with the Government Roadmap for Reopening Business and Society.  The National Governing Bodies of sport have been working over recent weeks to develop protocols for returning to training and competition in their respective sports.  The Expert Group will assess the consistency of the various protocols being prepared by the National Governing Bodies of Sport in Ireland with the Roadmap.


The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will chair the Expert Group, which includes medical experts from the Sport Ireland Institute and the sports sector, as well as officials from both the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and Sport Ireland. The Group also contains a specific representation for disability sport.


Minister Ross said: “Like every sector in society, those involved in Irish sport at all levels have been hugely affected by the COVID-19 crisis.  They are understandably most anxious to return to normal business as soon as possible, both those involved at a high performance level and those eager to return to playing and participating in the sports they love within their communities.  Unfortunately that is simply not possible in current circumstances.  Small and very measured steps must be introduced slowly, which is what the Roadmap sets out to do through the various phases.  But the good news is that some low-risk sporting activity can start up again next Monday in accordance with the public health advice.  The sports organisations are putting detailed protocols in place and the Expert Group that we are establishing today will be assessing the consistency of these arrangements with the Roadmap and current public health advice.  In my view, it is essential that the public can have confidence in how sport is being restored in Ireland and I believe that this initiative is an important confidence-building measure.”


Minister Griffin said: “The response from the sporting community to the Covid-19 pandemic has been inspirational.  The damage caused to so many sectors in Irish society is very evident and it has been no different in sport.  Even though the road to recovery will inevitably be challenging, it is encouraging to notice the degree to which so many people miss sport in their lives.  Phase 1 of the Roadmap is a small but important first step on the journey back.  A small number of sports will start again from next Monday to some extent under strict conditions of travel limits, social distancing and constraints on the number of people that can participate.  There has to be a strict adherence to the Roadmap and the public health advice.  The Expert Group being established today is intended to help sporting bodies to achieve the required compliance from their memberships.  Guidance advice will be provided by this Expert Group for each of the five phases of the Roadmap, which will assist the sporting organisations in their preparations for the staged return to sport set out in the roadmap.”


Sport Ireland Chief Executive John Treacy said: “Sport will play an important role as the country looks to emerge from the current crisis and the establishment of the Expert Group to guide National Governing Bodies through the process of reintroducing sport is a welcome step. Through Sport Ireland’s extensive consultation with the sports sector, there is a clear appetite for the reintroduction of sport at all levels and an appreciation that this must be done in a controlled and safe manner. The work of this group will provide a clear pathway for sport based on expert opinion and within the parameters outlined in the Government’s Roadmap for the Reopening of Society and Business. We would like to acknowledge the professional and diligent manner in which the sports sector has reacted and adapted to the ongoing situation. A lot of work is being put in behind the scenes to ensure that sport can resume as quickly and as safely as possible.”


The membership of the Expert Group is:


Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport: Peter Hogan (Chair), Betty Griffin, James Lavelle.


Sport Ireland: Paul McDermott, Dr. Una May, Niamh O’ Sullivan, Shane Califf, Dr Jim O’Donovan (Sport Ireland Institute)


Sport Sector: Dr Rod McLoughlin (IRFU), Dr Alan Byrne (FAI), Feargal McGill (GAA),

Niamh Daffy (CARA)