The wait for stadium returns goes on

AUTHOR: James Rogers – @JamesRogersie

The Government announcements last Thursday evening were a bit like the ongoing vaccine roll-outs: a welcome shot in the arm.

After several tough months at the start of 2021 there is finally a bit of hope on the horizon and, while we’ve a bit to go yet to get back to normal, we at least look like we’re on the road there at long last.

One major omission from the road map laid out by Taoiseach Micheál Martin though was in relation to sports events.

While we can all go back playing in June, it is not yet known when we will be able to go and support our teams.

This is particularly important for SSE Airtricity League clubs who rely heavily on gate receipts to survive. While it has its flaws, WATCHLOI has been a welcome addition in terms of being able to support our clubs from afar but it is due to be wound up this summer and while there may be an alternative with the use of Pixelot cameras, the whole selling point of the league is actually being there.

No one is expecting 7,000 people in Tallaght overnight but surely a phased return should be on the cards.

After all from May 10th, public transport will be operating at 50 percent capacity and libraries, galleries and museums are back open, from May 17th all shops are back open, from June 2nd, hotels and B&Bs are back open and from June 7th you can in theory have a friend round to watch a game or go to a restaurant or bar to take in a match.

Surely a social distanced environment outdoors at a football match is a much safer than sitting on a bus or train for a couple of hours or browsing around a museum, gallery or library.

I appreciate these are just the first steps towards bigger measures but allowing people to go and enjoy a game would be huge for mental health and wouldn’t do any harm to club coffers either.

After people being denied so much that they took for granted over the last year or more, this could be a time for League of Ireland clubs to bring in a new breed of fan.

We need to get those who’ve been there all along back first though. It’s just a pity that as we take our first steps back towards normality that the wait to be able to cheer on our favourite clubs continues.

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