Manager Niall Stack issuing instructions to Colaiste Choilm, Tullamore last week.
OFFALY GAA chairman Michael Duignan has appealed to supporters not to attempt to attend games without tickets in the coming weeks.
Mr Duignan made his plea on Monday in the wake of last week's Government decision to row back on their planned roadmap for reopening the country – shelving plans to allow 500 to gather for outdoor events and sticking with the current limit of 200 until August 10 when the Covid-19 numbers will be reviewed.
The announcement has serious repercussions for the GAA with club championships commencing all over the country – underage championships started in Offaly last weekend and the adult football ones will get underway this weekend. With the 200 figure including players, mentors, referees-linesmen-umpires, stewards and media, it means that just a handful of tickets will be available to general supporters.
Each competing club will receive 50 tickets for sale to their own members along with forty passes for players, management members/support staff and club officers – the other twenty will include referees and officials, stewards, board officers and media.
Asked would the board have personnel at games to ensure that host clubs strictly enforce the restrictions, Mr Duignan said: “We are appealing to people not to go to games unless they have a ticket. Everyone knows, if you don't have a ticket, you can't go in. We hope people will be sensible about this.”
The Offaly GAA management committee were scheduled to meet with club chairpersons this week and they will discuss at this whether there should be a co-ordinated approach about the distribution of allocations or whether it should be left to each club to decide individually. “My own personal opinion is a draw for tickets might be better and I don't know if there will be a county wide approach to this.”
The County Board will also be trying to stream as many matches as possible. They will attempt to stream senior games live or show a deferred broadcast of them on their own social media channels while they will also broadcast games in lower games that are supplied by clubs. It costs €5 to watch a deferred showing of a game and Mr Duignan stated that this will be given to senior “B”, intermediate and junior clubs who provide the footage.
Their own resources will allow them to cover just the four senior matches and Mr Duignan revealed that the charge to watch live streaming is €10. He hoped there wouldn't be a negative reaction to this, pointing out that the admission to senior games is €10 but an entire family could watch the streaming of one for this figure. “We don't think it is too much to ask for,” he said, repeating his call for supporters not to go to games without tickets. “I am really encouraging people not to turn up without tickets. We don't want that pressure on volunteers at gates. You will not get access without tickets.”
While hopeful that the limit will be increased to 500 on August 10, Mr Duignan said: “I have an open mind and I can understand why the crowds are restricted at this stage. Some venues can cater for more and obviously O'Connor Park can hold a lot more. I am in favour of the games going ahead. Think about the players and what they are getting out of it, training and playing matches in all age groups. Hopefully it will loosen up.”
In a statement issued on Friday, Offaly GAA announced that they have entered into a partnership with Tullamore based company, Future Ticketing for the 2020 season, which will facilitate the distribution and sale of tickets online. Correspondence will be sent to clubs this week providing exact details on how the system will operate.
People who have purchased season tickets may present them at a venue, however, it will not be possible at this time to accept the complimentary senior citizens passes which are in circulation – this may prove to be a bone of contention with holders of these passes and is a difficult issue for the Offaly GAA County Board to address.
In their statement, the board said: “While this news on the very limited capacity is obviously disappointing for clubs and their spectators, Offaly GAA requests that everyone adheres to the guidelines set down by the Government in the interests of public safety.”
The decision by the Government to change their plans places the GAA in a difficult position. The publication of their roadmap for reopening the country had been greeted with delight some weeks ago as it allowed club and county action to resume. However, now there is some doubt about competitions being completed and inter-county action starting as the possibility of further tightening of restrictions can't be ruled out.
The financial repercussions for County Boards are also severe as clubs games are one of their main sources of income each year and the restrictions on attendances will reduce this dramatically. While 500 would have been adequate cater for the crowd at most Offaly championship games in the group stages, apart from a few senior games and a couple of local derbies in lower grades, the 100 tickets available for the public won't sate demand for the vast majority of matches.
Offaly GAA chairman Michael Duignan noted:
“As we return to competitive action this weekend with the commencement of our U13 championship we are issuing our 2020 Covid-19 Regulations.
“I just wanted to wish everyone good luck in the weeks ahead and just remind clubs of a couple of very important matters ahead of our meeting with all club Chairpersons next Tuesday evening.
“1. Attendance at all matches is currently restricted to 200 in total including players, management, match officials, medical, media, supporters etc. We will be issuing further ticketing information in the coming days but, for now, at underage matches I would suggest that entry is restricted to players and their parents only. Please also be vigilant at adult challenge matches to ensure that the number is adhered to and again I would suggest asking non-playing club members to stay at home for now.
“2. All persons at the matches must be encouraged to social distance if they are not from the same household.
“3. Please ensure entrance and exits to venues have hand sanitiser clearly visible and in use.
“ 4. All players must complete their Health Questionnaire before EVERY activity and again hands sanitised before and after activity.
“ 5. Dressing rooms must remain closed.
“ 6. Please ensure that your Covid-19 officer is given the full support of the club to ensure all guidelines are met.
“I would like to acknowledge and sincerely thank all our volunteers for all their exceptional efforts to date as we return to competitive activity. Please keep it up and ensure that you are all fully compliant in the weeks ahead.
“Best wishes to all our teams, it really is fantastic to see our club championships commencing.”