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'Unless there is a magic wand, we could lose League of Ireland clubs forever'

Sinn Fein call for €2m rescue package from Government to save the League of Ireland.

Irish captain Coleman learned his trade in the League of Ireland.
Irish captain Coleman learned his trade in the League of Ireland.

SINN FEIN TD Chris Andrews believes League of Ireland clubs and the next generation of Irish players will suffer unless Government steps in with a cash injection now to safeguard League clubs through this current Covid-crisis.

Deputy Andrews also highlighted the important role played by League of Ireland clubs in their communities, saying this is now at risk due to decimated resources as the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis hits home.

He called on the Department of Sport to step in and assist clubs for the remainder of 2020. “We are not talking about big money,” the Deputy said. “If they had €2m, they would comfortably clear whatever financial obstacles are in the way but €1m would, more than likely, see clubs through.

“You have to understand what is at stake here. Without clubs, society would be a poorer place because the work these clubs do in their communities is really impressive.

“This goes on all around the country. 

“And look at it another way. The underage players in League clubs are our stars of the future. Seamus Coleman came from the League of Ireland; so did Enda Stevens, James McClean.

“The next generation could be lost if there isn’t intervention.

“I’m worried clubs could go. Unless there is a magic wand, it may happen. That is a real danger because the FAI don’t have the money, the League itself has no money. These clubs need help.

“And if Government intervenes, it isn’t just the League who could profit but communities around these clubs, too. Down the line, the Ireland national team would profit. Society needs League of Ireland clubs now more than ever.”

Andrews added: ”Clubs’ incomes have been decimated due to Covid-19 and they now face the prospect of a total lack of gate receipts for the rest of the season, which will have a knock-on effect for other income streams such as sponsorship and merchandise sales.

“But this crisis can be a temporary one if state supports are put in place. The wages of playing, backroom and support staff of these clubs must be protected as we navigate our way through the months ahead.

“League of Ireland clubs are no longer just first teams. They are focal points in their respective communities.

“They have played a central role in various community projects with outreach programmes for schools and the elderly, and inclusivity initiatives for both the socially and mentally disadvantaged in society.

“They have shown great solidarity to others too, such as programmes to integrate residents of Direct Provision Centres into the football family, and initiatives such as bringing and welcoming Gaza kids to Ireland.

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“This kind of community engagement is reflected all across the state by various League of Ireland clubs.

“They have truly played their part in society and now they need a leg-up from the state to see themselves through to the other side of this crisis intact.

“Unfortunately the feedback from people within League of Ireland clubs shows that there is little optimism among many of them about the financial viability of returning to play football this season.

“Some even fear they may not survive this crisis at all. Those fears were not allayed when the league’s clubs met with the FAI yesterday.

‘’The establishment of a kick-start solidarity grant would be a welcome step in the right direction and I have asked Minister Shane Ross to commit that no clubs will be allowed go out of existence due to the Covid-19 crisis, and to engage with both the FAI and League of Ireland clubs to ensure the continued viability of our league.’’

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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