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When will sports be back? | Irish professor counters gloomy predictions

When will sports be back? It's hard to believe that it is only 34 days since Diego Simeone's rai...


When will sports be back? | Irish professor counters gloomy predictions

When will sports be back? It's hard to believe that it is only 34 days since Diego Simeone's raiding Atletico Madrid sent shock-waves through European football by knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League.

Since the global sporting shutdown fans have asked, 'When will sports be back?'

The following day, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced Ireland's initial lockdown measures.

Later that night, Manchester United and Wolves competed behind closed doors in the Europa League, completing the final matches played by Premier League football clubs to date.

When will sports be back? (Str/Xinhua)

Speaking to OTB AM on Tuesday morning, Professor Luke O’Neill from Trinity College's School of Biochemistry and Immunology predicted that organised sports will return to Ireland during the summer months.

He believes that, “Once we see things turn,” and the spread of the virus slows or stops, bringing sports back should be high on the list of priorities.

Professor O'Neill highlighted the physical and mental benefits that sporting events and activities offer to society.

When will sports be back? The future of the GAA Championships remains in doubt. Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

When will sports be back?

As we go deeper into this health crisis the chances of live sport coming back seem more remote (and at times less important) and scenes of fans surging in packed stands as Firmino 'pulled one back' for Liverpool feel more alien.

When will sports be back? Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match at Anfield, Liverpool.

Professor O’Neill told OTB AM that he cannot see any mass gatherings taking place until there is a vaccine to kill COVID-19.

He noted that although there is an unprecedented push behind creating a cure, it is likely to be over a year before one will be approved.

This means that even as sports comeback - mass gatherings and full football stadiums will not return in the foreseeable future.

Grand plans

In recent weeks, there have been leaks of how the big money leagues around the world are planning to get their competitions back up and running.

These range from the Premier League's idea of a midlands World Cup-style run-off in isolation to the UFC promising to deliver live action from its own private island.

A widely-shared Sports Illustrated article published last Friday, set about doing some myth-busting around these proposed scenarios.

When will sports be back? UFC president Dana White says he has secured an island to produce fights from - Jason Silva/ZUMA Wire

Seeking the opinions of epidemiologists and other medical experts, the article picked flaws in the concept of these sports operating in isolation and the difficulty of keeping one of these sporting camps uninfected.

Some sticking points were the long tail of personnel needed to operate these events (teams and their staff, security personnel, TV and other media, catering staff etc), the need to access scarce COVID-19 tests and to use them on fit sports-people rather than people presenting symptoms.

When will sports be back? The WWE staged Wrestlemania behind closed doors. WWE/Instagram

The SI piece concluded: "Bringing back sports soon would give people a reason to stay inside, a reason to feel hopeful. It would probably also cost more lives."

Professor Luke O’Neill admitted to OTB AM that he's, "A terrible man for optimism," but he thinks that reality will be less severe than these projections.

He argues that antibody testing will help to create conditions under which sports will begin to return to society - and that once the situation has stabilised during the summer months, special conditions could be made to provide the testing and other medical resources needed for these events.

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