GAA Football

No clear roadmap for London clubs to resume: Exiles boss Michael Maher

London boss Michael Maher says the clubs' return to competitive action is still unclear

WHILE the Irish government and GAA have mapped out a clear path towards a safe return to Gaelic Games, London senior football manager Michael Maher says they are “still in limbo” because the UK government are applying different rules.

With the Stormont Executive increasingly in step with the Irish government, GAA clubs can resume non-contact training on June 29 in groups of 10 and two coaches with the prospect of club championships getting under starters orders at the end of July.

London GAA have told their clubs they can resume non-contact training on June 29, but in no more than groups of six [five players and one coach].

The bigger problem facing the Exiles, however, is there is no date for a return to contact training or games because Gaelic Games is not deemed an elite sport in England.

“We have nothing to go on,” said Maher.

“We can’t follow the date of July 20 to return to contact training and July 31 for games because the UK has not said when amateur, contact sport can return. They released very clear guidelines that elite sport [can resume] but absolutely nothing for amateur sports, so we’re in limbo and we’re not sure where it’s going to go for us.

“But I know clubs are getting their houses in order, getting Covid19 supervisors to do the work that’s required. But it’s a very, very difficult situation.”

Maher, who lives in the borough on Greenwich in the English capital, added: “Anyone I speak to, between the hours of nine to five things are getting back to normal.

“The roads are busier, the schools are opening, shops are at the point of opening. The bit I can’t get my head around is pubs and restaurants re-opening but [amateur] sport isn’t getting the green light.

“Pubs and restaurants are indoors spaces and surely would have been the last places to open, whereas a Gaelic football match or a kids’ soccer match aren’t. It’s a really strange situation.

“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the Irish government. Their plan was very clear. It all tallied, and it felt like it was in the right order, whereas over here it’s been a bit hit and miss, but the things that people are looking forward to doing just aren’t there yet.

“Things are improving and that’s the positive thing and we just have to keep our fingers crossed that it keeps going that way and that there is no second wave of the virus.

“Because there is no date, the county board is obviously in an awkward position, but I know they’re planning to give all the clubs some form of a round-robin League and Championship.”

Confusion has reigned in parts of England over whether some semi-professional soccer leagues are deemed an amateur or an elite sport. With the lines blurred, some cases have ended up in the corridors of parliament as clubs lobby their MPs to have league campaigns resumed.

“There’s a huge blow-up in non-league soccer over here at the moment. They went ahead and promoted the top teams in the National League South.

“Normally, from second down to seventh they play play-offs to decide who gets promoted. Some of those teams have budgets of up to £10,000 a week. The league was scrapping the play-offs but within the space of 48 hours these clubs got onto their local MPs and the government stepped in and said basically they were deemed an elite league and now the play-offs are possibly going to have to be played. I think there’s wriggle room in all the guidelines but we’re looking for guidelines for a sport that isn’t a national sport here.”

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GAA Football