New vaccine rules for underage basketball are “completely unfair”, a coach has said.
Basketball Ireland has cancelled all school and underage games planned for this weekend amid uncertainty over the current COVID-19 guidelines.
It comes after Sport Ireland issued guidelines - based on the Government’s latest COVID guidance - stated indoor sports are limited to pods of up to six participants (excluding adult coaches or instructors) where the group is a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Since COVID-19 vaccines have yet to be approved for children aged 11 and under, such a rule would effectively ban indoor team sports such as basketball from taking place at a school or juvenile level.
Meanwhile, senior sports events can proceed with the use of vaccine certs.
Darren McGovern, head coach with Eanna basketball club, told The Pat Kenny Show the rules came as a “massive shock” to the basketball community.
He said: “We weren’t expecting this - there was not even a whisper."
Darren said indoor venues are usually community centres, leisure facility or school halls - usually large and well-ventilated spaces.
He said: “You’re going to have a maximum of 20-25 underage players in that sort of area. It’s very large, with doors open and airflow going through.”
“There is a risk to everything we do… but basketball has the measures in place to deal with that, such as contact tracing.
“These kids have been waiting 20 months now, and some of them have never played a game of basketball… then when their excitement is building for this weekend for their first competitive game, it’s just snapped away from them unfortunately.”
He also noted the rules for indoor sports are in place despite unvaccinated children being able to attend schools, restaurants and other social settings.
For now, Darren said the current situation is “hugely frustrating” for the whole basketball.
He observed: “I think underage basketball should operate as it is, with vaccinated and unvaccinated young people allowed to play the sport.
“It’s completely unfair… underage basketball should be treated the same way as a school setting.”
He warned the lack of underage games could throw the sports "back into the dark ages", due to a shortage of talented young players coming through the system to represent the country.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government will do "everything we possibly can" to facilitate the full return of basketball.
He said he'd be discussing the issue again with Minister of State for Sports Jack Chambers later today.