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Government confirm additional funds to start League of Ireland season

The WatchLOI streaming service, meanwhile, is expected to return in a different format.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE GOVERNMENT HAVE confirmed League of Ireland clubs will be granted additional State support to start the season next month behind closed doors. 

The season is set to begin on 19 March, though clubs’ revenue will be severely affected by the fact games will at least initially be played behind closed doors. The FAI met clubs earlier this week and unveiled a €3.6 million package to be distributed among the clubs. 

The FAI admitted at the start of the year that further State support would be necessary to start the season, and FAI representatives today met with the Department of Sport with a view to securing that funding. 

Afterward, Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers confirmed funding would be forthcoming. 

“Positive engagement with the FAI today”, tweeted Deputy Chambers. “I made clear the Government’s support for the return of the League of Ireland. It’s important for the football community that our national league commences.

“I also provided assurances that we will provide additional supports in the period ahead. Work is continuing on the safe return of grassroots football when the public health situation allows.” 

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Clubs returned to pre-season training this week, as the pieces fall into place for a mid-March kick-off. The Premier Division fixtures have been published, with the First Division fixtures to be announced next Monday at 1pm. 

The FAI today announced a three-year sponsorship deal with Bank of Ireland, who have come on board as associate sponsors of the League of Ireland, Women’s National League, and FAI Cup. Bank of Ireland are also contributing to the return of the community engagement programme More Than A Club, which was discontinued in 2019 having lost its EU funding. 

This follows last month’s announcement that SSE Airtricity have extended their title sponsorship of the League of Ireland, and have also extended that patronage to the Women’s National League for the first time.

There has yet to be an announcement on broadcasting arrangements for the 2021 season, however. It’s understood reports that WatchLOI will be entirely scrapped are wide of the mark, and the streaming service is likely to return in a changed format. 

The platform provided access to all Premier Division games following the restart behind closed doors last year, and all games were produced by RTE and GAAGo. 

Though nothing has yet been agreed, it’s understood one of the potential options is a mix of some games broadcast as they were last year, with the rest to be streamed by clubs themselves. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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