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Going behind closed doors a possibility as clubs and FAI bid to save LOI season

A number of different options are now on the table, including a curtailed season to begin in the Autumn.

A view of Dalymount Park.
A view of Dalymount Park.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE FAI AND the League of Ireland clubs are considering a range of different options to save the 2020 season amid the Covid-19 shutdown, including an extension to the season into next year and the staging of games behind closed doors. 

The clubs had been working toward a resumption on 19 June, but this was always subject to government permission and yesterday’s announcement that licensed gatherings of more than 5,000 people were off the table until the end of August put that date into further doubt. 

Clubs were represented by delegates with the National League Executive Committee in a video conference call with the FAI earlier today, and the following options were among those discussed:

  • A resumption behind closed doors on 19 June with the season to end no later than the end of December, a ‘behind closed doors’ policy to operate as long as HSE Guidelines recommend.
  • A resumption as planned on 19 June with stadium restrictions in line with HSE Guidelines including ‘behind closed doors’ and reduced capacity at 25% or 50%, the season to run until the end of December.
  • A resumption in July or August, based on Government advice and HSE guidelines.
  • A deferral of all National League activity until September with a reduced fixture programme season to run until the end of December.
  • A resumption of National League football in September with a full fixture programme season to run until the end of February 2021.

The parties will now work out the financial impact of each option, with a final recommendation to be made by the first week of May. 

Staging games in empty grounds has been considered unfeasible given the majority of clubs’ turnover comes from gate receipts and matchday income. The FAI, however, say they will explore alternative sources of funding if games are behind closed doors, including live streaming of games and support from Fifa. 

“We all understand the situation the country is in right now and we will continue to follow the guidelines laid down by the HSE and the Department of Health”, said FAI Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn.

“We must also prepare for all eventualities around a return to football. The FAI and the NLEC are now working with the clubs to explore the financial impact around a return to action under all circumstances.

“We are engaging with the clubs now to see what income support they will need to get us back on the field and we look forward to productive engagement with them in the coming days so that we emerge from this difficult period in the strongest manner possible for everyone involved.” 

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Earlier today, St Patrick’s Athletic were forced to temporarily lay-off players and staff amid the uncertainty as to when games will return. 

The SSE Airtricity League season kicked off in February, but it was abruptly stopped less than a month later after just five rounds of matches. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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