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Supporters split on prospect of behind-closed-doors LOI games

A survey found a slight majority in favour of games happening in empty grounds.

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

A SURVEY FOUND Irish football fans are split on the prospect of League of Ireland games returning behind closed doors, with 52.7% of 857 participants saying they are in favour of the idea, with 47.3% against the idea. 

The survey was run by the Irish Supporters Network, a co-operative that first came together in 2013. 

The League of Ireland remains suspended, with a date for a resumption yet to be agreed. The FAI are planning to hold a behind-closed-doors tournament at the Aviva Stadium involving the four sides preparing for European competition – Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians, and Derry City – as a pilot event for the resumption of the game. 

It’s anticipated any resumption would be staged behind closed doors, in line with public health advice on social distancing. 

A resumption to the League has yet to be agreed, with clubs waiting for the FAI to furnish them the details of a financial package to cover medical costs and offset the loss of gate receipts. 

Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn told the LOI Weekly podcast that selling rights to stream games online would form part of the financial package, and 33.5% of the supporters surveyed said their preference in the event games do go ahead in empty grounds would be to watch the game on a paid streaming service, which would be free to certain groups within the supporter base i.e. season ticket holders or club members. 

Elsewhere, 81.5% of fans surveyed said supporters should be involved with the ongoing discussions and planning. 

“The findings of the survey reflect the ongoing discussion and debate seen right across the league at the moment – confusion, uncertainty, anxiety for the future”, read a statement by the Supporters Network. 

“Supporters are key stakeholders in the League of Ireland and our clubs, literally, would not survive without the financial and volunteering contributions made right throughout the year and not just at grounds on match night.

“ISN is fully supportive of efforts to try and find the safest way back to playing football but we would like to see discussion and planning around a pathway for supporters to return to grounds in due course alongside the other considerations being worked through by clubs, the PFAI and the FAI at present. If League of Ireland fixtures become something supporters are excluded from – for whatever reason – without any consultation, the ‘loss of habit’ could have a permanent and devastating effect. And that’s something no one wants to see.”

The full details of the survey are available here

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Gavin Cooney

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