President of Irish Squash, Rosie Barry, attended the online meeting organised by the Federation of Irish Sport with Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, on July 15th. Please see her report below:
In addition to squash, other indoor sports represented at the meeting included GAA handball, gymnastics, Swim Ireland (water polo), martial arts, table tennis, volleyball, student sport ireland, inline hockey and taekwondo.
The Minister provided his overview of where we are now and that the Covid Delta variant presented a sombre picture which led to the pause in July in planned easing of restrictions.
He said that the situation will be reviewed again in August.
He noted the funding impact on indoor sports and that a package is to be agreed for the sector in collaboration with Michael McGrath (Dept Public Expenditure).
Mary O’Connor (Federation of Irish Sport CEO) expressed the frustration felt by indoor sports and that financial & communication supports are urgently needed.
The meeting was opened to participants and concern was expressed across all sports around juniors and cancellation of indoor camps this summer.
I specifically asked what his plans were for allowing the Digital Covid Certificate to facilitate resumption of more ‘normal’ activity for vaccinated people in indoor sports. It appeared from the Minister’s response that this option had not yet been considered.
Concerns remain about the ability of senior international teams in non-Olympic sports to resume training & competing abroad – Sport Ireland have said yes but existing legislation is limited to Olympic sports and the big ones (rugby, soccer, cricket, hockey) with small NGB sports (like squash) excluded. Clarity on this issue was requested.
The Minister suggested that NGBs submit protocols for consideration in August as to how we can reopen safely. I replied that the protocol for indoor hospitality using the Digital Covid Cert should be adapted for indoor sports and that the government should take the lead on this.
Other NGBs also requested that the Gov Dept for Sport should be taking the lead on how we can progress reopening the indoor sport sector, rather than always leaving it to the NGBs to produce yet another protocol (that might or might not be approved).
Irish Squash was among the NGBs that requested the Minister to support them in maximising compliance with current restrictions among members.
All in all, I came away disappointed from the meeting. The indoor sport sector was not given any firm assurance about how or when we can reopen further. A vague hope that pods of 6 for training might be approved in August was as concrete a suggestion that the Minister put forward.
So for now, no change and no prospect of it in the near future.
The Federation of Irish Sport are hosting a further meeting with indoor sport NGBs this week to discuss ways in which we can make progress in our reopening plans. I will attend this meeting and provide an update on any new developments.Irish Squash continues to work hard on behalf of our members to ensure that a safe and sustainable reopening of our sport is achieved within a reasonable timeframe.Please keep an eye on our website and social media for further updates.We welcome any comments or queries to [email protected]Rosie BarryPresident Irish Squash