'Why are basketball leagues being played across Europe but not in Ireland?' 

Basketball Ireland chief Bernard O'Byrne looks for a clear roadmap for re-opening of indoor sport
'Why are basketball leagues being played across Europe but not in Ireland?' 

BFG Neptune's Cian Heaphy receives the MVP award from Bernard O'Byrne after the win over Kubs in the Hula Hoops National U18 final in 2017. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

MANY outdoor sports now have a relatively clear roadmap as to when and how they can resume here, but indoor sports are still very much in the dark.

It's been over a year since the CEO of Basketball Ireland, Bernard O'Byrne, announced the cessation of all basketball activity, in the face of the pandemic.

They were the first sporting organisation to pull down the shutters, but 12 months on they have no clarity about when they might see those shutters lifted with all Cork clubs frustrated and angry at the current lockdown and shutdown with no light at the end of the tunnel.

"I remember the dark day where we had to make the announcement that we were closing down the sport," said Bernard O’Byrne.

"If you're a sports administrator or a head of a sports body, and your announcement is that you're closing down the sport, that is a dark, dark day.

"The day that I'm able to announce that it's reopening will be the complete flip side of that, it will be a wonderful day for everybody.” 

Just when that date will be, is anybody's guess at the moment as all the focus is on outdoor activity, where the risk of transmission is considerably lower.

O'Byrne believes indoor sport has become an afterthought for the government as he found it incredibly frustrating when the latest roadmap, from the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, failed to give any indication of when those who participate in indoor activities might be able to so again.

Basketball Ireland and other National Governing Bodies are due to meet the Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers on Friday.

Across Europe, basketball leagues are back up and running and O'Byrne believes Ireland is an outlier in terms of medical advice around indoor sport.

"No other country is taking the stance that we're taking," he said. "I have the height of respect for the medical people and NPHET, but it seems to be almost a casual thing.

“Somebody somewhere has said 'indoor sport is very dangerous, don't do it', and that was it, and nobody actually looked into the facts.

"I'm on the board of Basketball Europe, so I know the details of all the basketball leagues that are going ahead.

A friend of mine in Spain has three sons, 16 years of age down, they have played basketball throughout the pandemic.

"They have 500 members in their club, and they've had two cases, and it's all because a responsible approach has been taken. Somehow in Ireland, the medical advice is different to a number of European countries."

O'Byrne wants NPHET to look at the evidence with fresh eyes, and to assess the case being made by 25 indoor sporting bodies in the country.

"I really would like them to just not trot out the cliches," he explained.

"I'd really like them to look afresh at the facts that are there, and I would like them to broaden out and look at what the facts around Europe are.

"We're not looking for special treatment, we're not looking for loopholes, but we are looking for logic and we are looking for fairness.

"We will bend over backwards to do whatever they deem reasonably necessary to get back and believe me they can trust us.

"If they allow basketball back, they can trust the basketball community to it properly and to do it well."

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