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Dublin: 5°C Monday 18 January 2021

League of Ireland's scheduled April return 'looks unlikely'

The FAI’s deputy CEO Niall Quinn also admitted new plans to hold Ireland’s Euros play-off semi-final with Slovakia in June were ‘aspirational’.

Niall Quinn (file pic).
Niall Quinn (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Mar 18th 2020, 8:14 AM

THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION of Ireland’s Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn is hopeful that the League of Ireland season can recommence in April, but has acknowledged this plan might not be viable if the coronavirus crisis worsens.

Speaking to FAI TV, the former Arsenal and Man City striker also admitted new plans to hold Ireland’s Euros play-off semi-final with Slovakia in June were “aspirational,” and that there were no contingency plans in place for an alternative later date, explaining: “The reality is the Government and HSE will probably decide if these dates work or not.”

On matters pertaining to the League of Ireland, Quinn added: “Uefa’s desire to get domestic football finished by June is aspirational. We hope that that’s correct and obviously we’re different in that we’re a summer league, if we can get back playing in April, that’s great — with no problems — it looks unlikely at this point — and it looks like we will be out for a longer period of time.

“So for our League of Ireland clubs, there is a difficult time for all. And they are meeting again on Thursday to discuss this, we’re meeting with them and the players’ representatives as well regularly with the steering group. We’re all worried, we’re all hoping to find some pathways through this very difficult time.

“And in relation to what is best for our clubs and for our players, I don’t think they want to play behind closed doors. We don’t have lucrative TV deals to make up for that happen. We need to be playing with crowds and the system works that way. There is a lot of talking to be done with the stakeholders. We’re here to do that talking. We’re here to help in any way we can.

“Before you ask me, I think the vote last night from the council to allow the Bank of Ireland to allow the drawdown to take place, that will help League of Ireland, in as much as they’re owed from the past we can now actually pay it quite quickly. So that will filter down we hope to the players in some way and again before you ask me, there is talk that affiliation fees may be waived for the clubs. It’s something we’ll discuss when we’re speaking to the clubs perhaps on Thursday, we’d rather talk to them rather than the press about that.”

Quinn also expressed sympathy for players at clubs, such as Drogheda, who are unable to pay wages at present.

“It’s difficult for players but when you take a peep outside football and see the devastation, talk of 200,000 being let go this week, it’s a nationwide problem, it’s awful. How do we best prepare our clubs and players for it and assist them with it? We’re wading through it right now, there is a lot of discussion, there is huge sympathy for what’s happening out there. We’re hoping that repaying owed fees will help, in other ways, we can find some more revenue creating opportunities for clubs.” 

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And could the government provide assistance in helping Irish football during this crisis?

We did say we would look at anything out there once we assessed the impact that this is going to have on the clubs, but as soon as we did that, the pandemic got really into every part of Irish life.

“So I now think every business in the land is looking for such assistance, so it may be that players fall into line with the Government scheme that was announced a couple of nights ago.

“I don’t know discussions with the clubs and PFAI are very important now and that we can find some way to get through it. Obviously the more quickly we get back playing, the better.

“The effect month by month, it’s tough for the clubs around Europe but for us in particular, with no TV deals and relying on gates, month by month, it’s so critical for us. It’s a priority, both the clubs and the players understand that we made it a priority in the last week, 10 days or so. We haven’t got all the answers yet, but we will have some form of assistance coming in the form of repayment of owed monies to clubs.”

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Paul Fennessy

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