Ryan Byrne/INPHO PFAI secretary, Stephen McGuinness.

PFAI chasing €1m Uefa loan to help clubs through shutdown crisis

Irish players union worried about League of Ireland players being paid if government extends ban on large public gatherings beyond 29 March.

THE PFAI HAVE been frantically engaging with the worldwide players union, FIFPro, to come up with a strategy to deal with the implications of a sporting shutdown.

The union are set to make a once-off application to Uefa for funds up to €1m to pay players’ salaries during this shutdown period in Irish sport.

Fully aware how dependent League of Ireland clubs are on gate receipts to finance their players’ wages, the PFAI see financial disaster coming down the track, unless drastic action is taken soon.

This morning’s announcement by Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, to effectively shut sport down until 29 March, came as no surprise. Already, the PFAI secretary, Stephen McGuinness, has met the FAI and FifPro to draw up a crisis-plan.

They intend asking either the department of sport or, more likely, Uefa, to intervene and loan the requisite funds – via the FAI – to pay players salaries in the 20 League of Ireland clubs while the sporting shutdown continues.

Leading union officials reckon they would need €1m over a three-month period to guarantee their members’ wages.

The union is working closely with the FAI, who have assigned a senior staff member from their finance department to ascertain precisely how much money each club would need on a weekly basis.

As the League of Ireland has no TV deal worth talking about, they are overly reliant on match-day income – from gate receipts and commercial activities associated with game-day activities – to stay financially viable.

Shutting down fixtures then leaves clubs in a bind, depriving them of a major source of income even though they remain contractually committed to paying their players. Even a short-term suspension of games would cause problems.

However, if that shutdown was to be extended into the summer then many clubs would be in danger of folding.

Aware of this, the PFAI are working with the FAI to figure out the logistics of securing a loan or even a grant, distributing it fairly to clubs and figuring out a timescale for it to be repaid.

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