By James Ward, PA
Masks, social distancing and contract tracing measures will all be in place for fans returning to sporting events this week.
Guidelines for the safe return of spectators to stadiums were published on Sunday, ahead of 16 pilot events to take place in June, July and August.
Capacity at the games will steadily increase from 10 per cent, to 20 per cent, to 33 per cent, with the aim of reaching 50 per cent by the autumn, but Junior Sports Minister Jack Chambers has said there is scope to increase those numbers.
He said: “There’s no ceiling around ambition here. With the vaccination rollout and the vaccination effect proceeding across society there’s a suppression effect there.
“We want to see as many spectators return as quickly as possible for League of Ireland games that are rolling to the summer, for the All Ireland series, ladies’ football and camogie.
“We’re ambitious around that and that’s why we’re doing the pilots to get the logistics and the systems right so we can then expand capacity through the summer.
“I think that provides an exciting period ahead for many sports fans.”
The first of the pilot events will take place on Friday, with 1,200 fans to attend the Leinster vs Dragons rugby match at the RDS.
Two League of Ireland games will also feature, with 1,000 at the clash between Finn Harps and Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium and 600 at Turner’s Cross in Cork for the Cork City vs Cabinteely game.
Other events outside the pilot scheme will also return, where 100 attendees can go to matches in smaller venues, with that number rising to 200 at venues which can hold more than 5,000.
Robust contract tracing measures and mask wearing will be in place for the pilot events.
Mr Chambers told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “This is a really important part of it. So, for example, if someone unfortunately did contract Covid and tested positive say in the day or two or the week after attending a match, for example, the information for every ticketholder on their seat will be held for 28 days, in the aftermath of a match.
“So if the person tests positive and they go through the contact tracing process, the contact tracing team from the HSE will be able to contact the event organiser and access the information and discover who was sitting around that particular person.”
It's an important day for sport 🏐⛳🏉
I published the guidelines for the return of spectators at the @AVIVAStadium today alongside stadium director Martin Murphy. 15 pilot games scheduled for the coming weeks & scaling up over the summer so more people can see their team again! pic.twitter.com/e0v8KC4Lsc
— Jack Chambers TD (@jackfchambers) June 7, 2021
Despite events taking place outdoors, fans will still be required to wear masks and socially distance.
“It will be different but people are used to wearing masks, they’re used to the last year of Covid,” the Minister said.
“That could evolve and change as we see this significant increase in vaccination.
“But I think for any fan listening this morning, the joy of being able to see their team, to get behind their team at a match, I think a lot of fans will be very willing to engage in very practical measures like wearing a mask, keeping their distance.”
Mr Chambers said a “new type of fan journey” will see staggered entry and exit times, as well as a new code of conduct for ticketholders.
Allocation of tickers will be a matter for individual sporting organisations.