GAA Football

North won't be marooned by any Brexit border says GAA Communications chief Alan Milton

Down fans at Clones. In the future, fans from the six counties could be faced with border checks before getting to watch the Ulster final live.
Andy Watters

BREXIT could bring a return of the border but the GAA will not leave six counties “marooned” north of it says GAA Head of Communications Alan Milton.

The Croke Park spokesman has assured northern Gaels that the GAA will adapt to whatever Brexit brings – be that a physical border or changes to insurance legislation affecting the Player Injury Fund – and that the association will always organise games on an all-Ireland basis.

Uncertainty remains over exactly what the UK’s March breakaway from the European Union will mean (and even if it will happen) and Milton pointed to some of the possible logistical scenarios that he said “don’t bear thinking about”.

“The GAA is a 32-county body and it always has been,” he said.

“Whatever happens with Brexit is largely outside of our control but it won’t impact on how we organise our games on a 32-county basis. That won’t change.

“We don’t know what’s coming down the tracks – nobody does – but we’ll be monitoring the situation very, very carefully.

“The scenario we had last year where Down and Tyrone were in the Ulster final in Clones and the idea that (in the future) we would have a movement of 32,000 people from one side of the border to a venue on the other side doesn’t bear thinking about.

“So there are real implications if Brexit brings a hard border.

“Just imagine the people of Down and Tyrone having to cross a border twice to go to a football match. Over and back… Think of the logistical nightmare involved and the tailbacks and the trip back down memory lane that nobody wants to go back to. It doesn’t bear thinking about but people need to recognise the fact that Brexit has the potential to have such harm on everyday relations and peoples’ lifestyles.”

The Clones “nightmare scenario” would be repeated in reverse if Casement Park was to be redeveloped and Monaghan were to meet Cavan or Donegal in a Belfast Ulster final. Milton has assured Gaels that the GAA will “not be found wanting” should the political landscape change.

“The GAA isn’t active in the political space for obvious reasons,” he said.

“It’s not part of our remit but, like everybody else on the island, we’re watching it closely and we will gear up for whatever challenge comes our way.

“But it won’t impact on how we go about organising and promoting our games. We’ve had a hard border before. It’s far better and far easier for everybody that there is no hard border now but the GAA won’t be found wanting if it has to organise it’s games in new and changed circumstances.

“Brexit goes to the core of life in the island. At the minute people cross the border not knowing it’s there, it doesn’t come into people’s thinking anymore and that’s because of the changed and enhanced circumstances on the island for the last two decades.

“Nobody wants to turn the clock back from a GAA perspective and I think the example of Clones exemplifies what a nightmare scenario you could be encountering if there has to be a hard border. Hopefully that won’t be the case.”

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