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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 17 February, 2020

FAI give schoolboy clubs green light to revert to winter football

Underage teams had originally been instructed to switch from their traditional season by 2020.

FAI's director of high performance, Ruud Dokter, had originally made the switch to summer football a priority.
FAI's director of high performance, Ruud Dokter, had originally made the switch to summer football a priority.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION of Ireland says it will not stand in the way of schoolboy clubs seeking to revert to, or stick with, a winter football calendar.

Originally, in a move initiated by the FAI’s Player Development Plan published in 2015, it was instructed that summer football would be fully operational in all 32 schoolboy leagues by 2020.

The decision, which was made a priority by High Performance Director Ruud Dokter, who took up the role in 2013, has caused much controversy.

Arguments against the proposal have included suggestions that it will drive young players away to other sports, in addition to concerns that games will inevitably coincide with a time when many families go away on holidays, forcing fixtures to be postponed in some instances, with a break for the months of July and August meaning games were crammed in between March and October.

Supporters of summer football argued the importance of ensuring the schoolboy season coincides with the League of Ireland campaign, while also pointing to the benefits of the inevitably superior playing surfaces during the warmer months of the year.

Surveys undertaken by the Dublin District Schoolboys’ League  (DDSL) and North Dublin Schoolboys’ League NDSL have shown the majority of members back a reversion to winter football, while a number of leagues outside of the capital have been similarly unenthusiastic about the change, with some yet to comply with the previous request to switch.

Part of a joint-statement issued this evening along with Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland reads: “The Board of the FAI is aware that a number of SFAI affiliate leagues have had difficulty implementing trophy football in the calendar season and feel their leagues would be better equipped to deliver trophy football by following the winter season in line with the school calendar.

“Following discussions between the FAI and the SFAI, the Board of the FAI have agreed the following:

  • Any underage league currently playing in the calendar season or about to implement calendar season football may continue to do so
  • Those leagues currently playing in calendar season that have faced serious challenges may consider a return to the winter season
  • Leagues currently playing in the winter season may continue to do so
  • SFAI competitions will remain in their current format.

“The FAI, in conjunction with the SFAI, are establishing a Committee to look into this particular matter and are aware that any change may pose challenges as the non-alignment of the Schoolboy season with the National League season can lead to difficulties for various stakeholders.”

It has been an eventful week for the embattled association, who on Wednesday expressed their “shock and disappointment” with a statement from SIPTU, which suggested they were in “an extremely precarious financial situation with a threat of the organisation becoming insolvent in only a matter of weeks”. 

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Paul Fennessy

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