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FAI will 'come down hard' on clubs flouting Covid-19 guidance

Elsewhere, interest in the WatchLOI streaming service is higher than envisaged.

FAI Interim CEO Gary Owens.
FAI Interim CEO Gary Owens.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

FAI INTERIM CEO Gary Owens says the FAI will “come down hard” if any League of Ireland club is found to be flouting the protocols surrounding Covid-19. 

Two Waterford FC showed Covid-like symptoms across Monday and yesterday – the first player’s test returned negative while the second is awaiting the results of his test – and club doctor Sinead Fitzpatrick resigned from her position, hinting at issues around compliance in saying her decision was the correct course of action “when you feel things are very wrong.” 

In response to the first player to show symptoms on Monday, the club shut down all activity and yesterday’s game with Sligo Rovers was postponed. 

Separately, Derry City manager Declan Devine pointedly told the Irish Mirror that he hoped all clubs were following Derry’s example in following the guidelines around the quarantining of players arriving from abroad. 

Speaking to the media today, Owens said any club found to be in breach of protocols would be punished by the FAI. 

“We were very strong about that [in a meeting with clubs] last Friday. We will come down hard on clubs. There is too much at stake.

“So all of these messages we give out from top to bottom are going to influence international team exposure, European teams, and our own National League. It’s important we get it right.” 

Owens did not specify what those sanctions would be. 

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“We have to make it worth their while and incentivise compliance. We’ll definitely have to think of sanctions for the people who are not following the protocols. There is no point putting them in if you ignore them.” 

Elsewhere, Owens hailed the new WatchLOI streaming service, with its early returns better than expected. 

“One of the things that surprised me was that the commercial value of the League of Ireland was very poor”, said Owens. “It is a very poor proposition in its current guise, it’s even undervalued in its current guise. Streaming goes with that and enhancing it. The commercial value of the League of Ireland could be five or six times what it is today and ultimately streaming will add to that.” 

First Division games are likely to be added to the platform from next year, although some clubs will need to improve the technical capacity of their ground. 

Robbie Keane, meanwhile, remains on the FAI’s payroll in spite of the fact he is no longer part of the senior international squad’s backroom team. Owens confirmed talks with Keane are ongoing. 

“He’s still in his contract. I can’t say any more than that. We’re having ongoing discussions with Robbie.” 

 

 

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Gavin Cooney

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