European Sports Ministers discuss safe return of spectators to sport and other Covid challenges to sector

Minister Jack Chambers says spectators at matches and events “clearly missed”

Brian Lowry


Brian Lowry


European Sports Ministers discuss safe return of spectators to sport and other Covid challenges to sector

Laois fans cheer on their team in Croke Park. How long will be it before supporters can get to attending sporting events

Sports Ministers from across Europe have discussed a range of issues concerning the sector including the safe return of spectators to sporting events.

 The informal European council meeting took place via videoconference and was hosted by the German Presidency.

 Ministers discussed the difficulties hosting sporting events since the outbreak of the pandemic and the need for increased exchange at EU level among member states.

 Giving his statement to the council in Irish, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht, Jack Chambers, T.D. said member states should work more closely together on initiatives to allow the return of spectators to sporting events.

 “Ireland would support increased EU exchanges. In that context, we would like to suggest that there should be a focus on three areas,” Minister Chambers said in his contribution to the Council.

 “Firstly, achieving as much standardisation as possible in testing regimes. The maximum possible standardisation and uniformity of such regimes will greatly assist successful event planning.

 “Secondly, we see a need to inform and help our fans to attend these events safely.  The return of sport, behind closed doors for the most part, has been a great boost but the presence of fans is clearly missed.

 “Events are simply not the same without fans and the EU might usefully consider leading an information campaign to assist and guide positive fan behaviour. That can also help to build the confidence of fans in our event safety planning.

 “Thirdly, the inspirational effect of major events cannot be lost or diminished. There will be an understandable focus on event safety and security but we still need to sell the huge potential that these events have in driving wider participation in sport, as well as contributing to ongoing economic and tourism growth.  The values of sport and their capacity to foster closer international relationships and national and community pride can rightly be emphasised and publicised.”

 Minster Chambers also highlighted the problems faced by athletes undertaking international travel to secure qualification for the Olympics and Paralympics.

 “Preventing the spread of COVID-19 within travelling teams is considered the primary operational challenge for sport. Alternative logistic arrangements, involving private transportation, single occupancy in hotels, and shorter stays at competition is the new order of the day,” he said.

 “International travel is also, and will continue to be, a key challenge. The smooth and orderly continuation of international travel is vital for professional teams and those seeking Olympic/Paralympic qualification. Another challenge that we would like to highlight is insurance where some sports in Ireland have encountered difficulties in securing adequate insurance cover for travelling parties contracting COVID-19 whilst abroad. I would be interested to hear if this issue is arising elsewhere.”