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Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers with Greg Sloggett and Sean Hoare of Dundalk.
Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers with Greg Sloggett and Sean Hoare of Dundalk.
Image: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

LOI clubs face further delay in learning fate of European qualifiers

Uefa have delayed a decisive Committee meeting to solve outstanding issues over three Euro 2020 host cities.
May 18th 2020, 8:00 PM 8,411 4

DUNDALK, SHAMROCK ROVERS, Bohemians and Derry City face a further delay in learning the fate of their 2020 European ties as Uefa postponed a decisive meeting of their Executive Committee (ExCo). 

With the 2020/2021 European season facing interruption because of the Covid-19 shutdown, the Committee meeting will decide whether qualifying games involving Irish sides will be affected. 

There are three options on the table: stage the two-legged ties as is, reduce them to a one-legged affair, or cancel them altogether. The latter scenario would see Uefa pay clubs compensation, although it would nonetheless lead to a significant financial hit for the clubs involved. 

The meeting, initially slated for 27 May, has been put back to 17 June as some doubts remain over “a small number of proposed venues” for the rescheduled Euro 2020, which has been put back a year to June 2021. 

The Euros is due to be held across 12 European cities, with Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin revealing there are some issues with arranging the games in three of the original host cities. Dublin is not among them, as sports minister Shane Ross wrote to Ceferin last month to re-affirm the government’s commitment to staging games here.

Ceferin said last week that Uefa would be ready to host the competition in nine, 10, or 11 cities if the outstanding issues are not resolved, but it’s understood that there is no immediate prospect of Dublin being awarded additional games. 

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The delay to the meeting allows leagues more time to decide how they will conclude their seasons, with the initial 25 May deadline now set to be relaxed. 

The FAI published return to play proposals for the League of Ireland last Friday, with Dundalk, Rovers, Bohs, and Derry set to play in a mini-tournament behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium.

A date has yet to be fixed for the competition, and it is being held to prepare the quartet for scheduled European games and as a pilot programme to prepare for a return to football for everyone. Those four clubs are allowed to resume collective training from 8 June, with the rest of the Premier and First Division clubs permitted to return three weeks later. 

The FAI are aiming to restart the league even if it has to behind closed doors or with reduced capacities, and Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn told the LOI Weekly podcast last week that the Association are looking at a number of different revenue streams to mitigate against clubs’ loss of gate receipts. 

He said the FAI are extremely eager to restart the league, with Quinn telling LOI Weekly they “have to do everything possible to get the show back on the road.” Quinn also said Uefa are “imploring” the FAI to re-start the league “at all costs”, language which is understood to have raised eyebrows among some at Uefa. 

While Uefa last month urged member associations to explore all possible options to conclude their domestic leagues, Uefa sources indicated to The42 that the governing body are not compelling associations to finish their seasons, particularly so in the case of the League of Ireland, as the summer season structure means the identity of clubs competing in Europen competition next season has already been determined. 

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Gavin Cooney

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