A general view of Dalymount Park.

LOI targeting return in June as clubs agree revised schedule

Under the new proposals, the EA Sports Cup has been deferred but the FAI Cup will go ahead.

THE LEAGUE OF Ireland is targeting a resumption of games on 19 June amid the coronavirus crisis. 

The league was put on hold last week in response to the government’s recommendation that all mass gatherings are cancelled to best contain the spread of the virus, and a mid-June return for both the Premier Division and First Division is the target following a teleconference call this afternoon between the FAI and the National League Executive Committee. 

The date has been picked so as to give the league the best possible chance of playing all remaining games in 2020 and to serve the needs of the sides competing in European competitions. It is in line with the guidelines Uefa presented to the FAI following a meeting on Tuesday. 

Under this schedule, the final round of games in the Premier Division has been cancelled and the EA Sports Cup has been deferred.

First Division clubs, meanwhile, will “examine the possibility of fulfilling their 27-game schedule within this timeframe from June to December”, according to an FAI statement. 

The FAI Cup final is still going ahead as planned on 1 November, but will not serve as the season’s climax. 

Instead, the Premier Division season will run through to Friday, 4 December with the second leg of the promotion/relegation play-off pencilled in for the following Friday. 

The financial implications of almost three months without a game will be stark for most clubs, and yesterday Sligo Rovers announced they have temporarily laid off staff during the shutdown. 

“These are very difficult times for our clubs and players and the FAI remains committed to doing everything we can to get us all through this crisis together”, said FAI Competitions Director Fran Gavin.

“There are no certainties around the COVID-19 pandemic but this decision offers us something to aim for. UEFA hope to have European football back up and running by early June at the latest so 19 June is a realistic target for us at this moment in time.

“Together with the clubs and the Professional Footballer’s Association of Ireland, we will work together towards this date and continue to liaise with the NLEC and the PFAI to protect our clubs and players as best we can.”

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