Staging Of Domestic Rugby Matches In 2021:
Dear Club Secretary/School Principal,
Following almost a year of constant struggle, in an environment dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are at last beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, as Government plans for the introduction of a vaccine programme which it is hoped will bring about a return to some form of normality. Against this background I felt it important to write and assure you that the IRFU fully recognises the trauma experienced by our Clubs and Schools in the past year and to convey to you that we have been, and will continue, pushing the needs of rugby Clubs and rugby Schools with Government, as it plots the return of a safe environment for all citizens.
In this regard we were surprised and disappointed that the Government’s latest guidance to the sports sector, exiting from Level 5 of the Framework for Restrictive Measures (Dec.1), made no provision for the playing of any domestic rugby matches, while the conclusion of some limited competitions was facilitated in other field sports (See www.sportireland.ie). We sought immediately to clarify this situation on your behalf and are continuing to hold meetings with the relevant officials to ensure rugby at Schools and Club level can get back to training and playing matches, immediately when is safe to do so. It has been a credit to all in rugby, from the ranks of professional rugby right down to the grass roots, that, in these discussions, we have been able to stress Rugby’s ongoing compliance with public health measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. We fully understand and, in turn, have conveyed to Government, that without the ability to offer organised games to players of all ages and abilities, there remains a serious threat to Irish Rugby. We have represented your frustrations at the highest levels of office in public health and Government. Dialogue remains ongoing and I can assure you that we will continue to stand strong in representing the needs of Clubs and Schools, while cognisant that a pandemic crisis rages and we must at all times continue to ensure we contribute positively to the safety and wellbeing of society.
The IRFU’s approach to influencing Government, with whom we have the strongest and most cordial relations, is to deal directly with policy and decision makers, out of the public eye. It is this manner of interaction that has recently assisted in securing critical, significant grant fund for distribution to our Clubs throughout the country. We are confident it will continue to be the most effective approach to our representations on behalf of the domestic game. Our latest submission to Government, which centres on the game at Club and Schools level, seeks an easing of restrictions for Rugby under Level 3 Public Health measures. This includes the playing of Rugby matches and provisions for use of clubhouse facilities at all times in a safe manner that minimises the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
It recognises the particular urgency around the playing of games for School aged children in the early months of 2021. Undoubtedly, two consecutive seasons without the chance to complete Schools and U18 competitions for boys and girls would be disastrous for retention rates in the game. The submission also stresses the need to ensure a full resumption for all Club rugby competitions at the earliest possible opportunity in 2021, when it is safe to do so. As I close I want to particularly thank you and the thousands of rugby volunteers who have worked so tirelessly these past months to provide a vital outlet for health and wellbeing, at a time when it is needed most.
For now, I want to assure you of the IRFU’s ongoing commitment to our Clubs and Schools and urge you to continue to do the right thing by our sport, continuing to follow all public health guidelines in the coming weeks and months.
We look forward to a better and brighter 2021, but in the meantime I wish you and your family a peaceful, happy and safe Christmas..