Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport Chris Andrews TD has expressed deep concern over the unwillingness of the government to openly prepare for a return to outdoor sports.
Speaking today, Teachta Andrews said:
“Over the past number of weeks, I have sought to speak with the Minister for Sport to discuss what preparations are currently underway for a return to outdoor sporting activities, with a special focus on underage sporting activities.
“I am calling on the Minister for Sport to engage with the public health experts and put in place a plan for the safe return of outdoor sports.
“This needs to be communicated clearly and prepared in advance. Unsafe and uncontrolled sporting activity is already happening and, in the interests of public health, we should not turn a blind eye to this.
“Week after week, I have been denied the opportunity to speak with the Minister, while week after week, the concerns of parents grow higher and higher.
“One of this government’s major failings has been its inability to effectively communicate with the public – we have seen this at various stages of lockdowns, closures of schools and around the vaccine rollout.
“With the reopening of schools, we have seen a sharp rise in reports of large groups of children trespassing on sporting grounds simply to play a game of football.
“The level of unofficial football leagues being played each weekend cannot be ignored – they are plain to see for anyone visiting any park.
“An alternative is urgently needed for these young people so that they may play underage outdoor sports in a safe and controlled environment.
“Many parents have been left asking why outdoor sports cannot be organised in a controlled environment as was previously the case.
“Many have raised the question as to why outdoor bubbles for physical education are not allowed, while indoor bubbles for educational development are.
“With many experts from the sporting community raising concerns, it is clear that the lack of sporting activities is having a disproportionate effect on the five to 25-year-old age group.
“There is a clear lack of clarity surrounding how these decisions are made, which is fuelling the frustration of parents.
“The government must engage and begin to explore the resumption of sporting activities in a safe and controlled environment.”