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4 League of Ireland clubs set to return in behind-closed-doors tournament

Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians will be the first teams back in action.

Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers are two of the clubs who are partaking in the tournament.
Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers are two of the clubs who are partaking in the tournament.
Image: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION of Ireland has tonight provided a significant update on plans for a return to action, including an upcoming four-team tournament involving Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City starting on a yet-to-be-confirmed date this summer.

The association added that the latest plans are subject to change based on the advice of Government agencies, Uefa and the FAI Medical Team, led by Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne, and that they will do the utmost to ensure the safety of all concerned.

“My advice to clubs is not to return to training when we enter Phase One of the Government Roadmap on Monday, 18 May, not to open their grounds and pitches, even to groups of four, and not to consider collective training or playing football until the medical evidence suggests otherwise,” Byrne said.

“Decisive actions by our clubs now, will improve the chances of a safer return to football for everyone. We must take small and deliberate steps before we can allow all football to return. My recommendation to the FAI is to begin with a pilot programme on 8 June for the four SSE Airtricity League teams who have qualified for European football. This will allow us to analyse every step of their journey back to football, beginning with a safe return to training.

“The information we will gather from that pilot programme will be invaluable for all players, at all levels of the game, as we look to establish a safer pathway to a return for all football, one that can be approved by all Government agencies and Uefa. We all want football back in our lives but it is not worth risking one life by rushing to get our game back.”

Consequently, based on directives to facilitate a safer return for all football, the FAI have made the following decisions:

SSE AIRTRICITY LEAGUE

  • The cessation of all football under the jurisdiction of the FAI is extended to July 20th with the exception of SSE Airtricity League clubs and Uefa Women’s Champions League representatives, Peamount United.
  • All clubs are advised not to facilitate any organised training, including in groups of up to four, under Phase One of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business.
  • Four SSE Airtricity League clubs – Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians — will be invited to return to training initially followed by a return to playing, in a behind-closed-doors tournament, as part of a pilot programme for a return to football for everyone.
  • Players and staff from the four invited SSE Airtricity League clubs will undergo regular Covid-19 testing from 26 May.
  • The four invited SSE Airtricity League clubs can return to collective training on 8 June.
  • These four clubs will participate in a four-team tournament at a neutral venue, ahead of their European Club competition games in late July/ early August.
  • The four-team tournament will provide all stakeholders with an opportunity to learn in the current environment from these games, thus providing a safer template for SSE Airtricity League, International games and all football going forward
  • All other SSE Airtricity League squads can return to collective training on 29 June under Phase Three of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business, with players and staff undergoing regular Covid-19 testing.
  • The FAI Medical Team will provide a detailed and transparent analysis of the testing results to stakeholders, Government agencies and Uefa on an ongoing basis.

WOMEN’S NATIONAL LEAGUE, ADULT AMATEUR, UNDERAGE AND ALL OTHER AFFILIATED FOOTBALL

  • All clubs are advised not to facilitate any organised training, including in groups of up to four, under Phase One of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business.
  • The FAI Steering Group will monitor the pilot programme for the four invited SSE Airtricity League clubs, to be launched on 8 June, and will use all information gathered in the preparation of a protocol document for a return for all adult amateur and underage football.
  • The cessation of all football activities under the jurisdiction of the FAI is extended to 20 July for all affiliates, with the exception of SSE Airtricity League clubs and Uefa Women’s Champions League representatives, Peamount United.
  • A decision on Peamount United’s return to training will be made once dates are known for the Uefa Women’s Champions League.
  • Under Phase Four of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business, all adult amateur and underage clubs can begin their return to training programmes from 20 July, subject to FAI protocols to be agreed with Government agencies.
  • Under Phase Five of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business, all adult amateur and underage clubs can return to full collective training from 10 August.
  • All adult amateur and underage clubs can return to playing from 28 August.
  • A pilot tournament for the Women’s National League, including Peamount United, will be launched once dates are known for the Uefa Women’s Champions League.
  • A pilot programme for adult amateur and underage football will be launched on 14 August and run until 28 August.
  • Regional, provincial and national competitions in season 2019/20 can return from 28 August with FAI approval.
  • Winter Leagues wishing to complete their 2019/20 season will be given the option of applying to the FAI, via their affiliates, for an extension to their season until 11 October.
  • Applications from Winter Leagues looking to complete the 2019/20 season must be made to the FAI by 15 June with details to be forwarded to affiliates from the Steering Group by 22 May.
  • Winter Leagues not wishing to complete their 2019/20 season can start their new 2020/21 season on 16 October.
  • 2020 Summer Leagues can return on 28 August and will be provided with support to create a shortened schedule to run up to 13 December.
  • All decisions around a return to collective training and playing for all adult amateur and underage football, will be based on the health and safety of all players, coaches, match officials, administrators and club volunteers.
  • All decisions will be subject to change on the advice of Government agencies, Uefa and the FAI Medical Team, led by Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne.

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Today’s update comes on the back of news that 87% of League of Ireland players are in favour of a return to training and games.

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