Return of League of Ireland to be agreed on Friday
Jun. 25, 2020
The League of Ireland clubs have until Friday to agree a resumption of football after a series of meetings on Wednesday.
The FAI and the Premier and First Division clubs have agreed an 18-game season to kick off again on 31 July.
Financial arrangements to support the clubs restarting are now in place following the Government commitment of €40million to the big three sporting associations, the FAI, the GAA and the IRFU.
However the main concerns aired on Wednesday were not financial related, but format of the league.
With the season disrupted and some players out of contract, Premier Division clubs - particularly those at the wrong end of the table - feel that the 13 or 14 games left to play isn’t a fair way to decide relegation.
The strong view was that clubs shouldn’t be judged on so few games considering the implications of going down.
First Division clubs were of the opinion that it is fundamentally wrong if the winner of that championship doesn’t get promotion or even prize money.
A proposal that the winners of the First Division play the bottom team in the Premier Division in a one-game play off at a neutral venue was rejected by the First Division clubs.
Other solutions are being explored and there could be a scenario where the top two and the bottom two will be involved in play-offs, again a series of one-off matches at neutral venues.
But the difference financially between the two divisions of the SSE Airtricity League is huge.
Premier Division Clubs are receiving on average €190,000 as a support from the FAI to return to play.
First Division clubs are set to receive €67,000, yet for some clubs the outgoings on staff and player wages would be as high as the lower top flight budgets.
Clubs have pressed the FAI on the need for players to accept some sort of concession on wages, either a cut or a deferral.
A club official has told RTÉ Sport that they are going to introduce a 25% wage cut across the board if they are to survive.
The FAI are having a further series of meetings today with the National League Executive Committee and the players' representative, the PFAI, later today. Players' wages will be discussed with the PFAI.
The staging of the FAI Cup this year was also discussed.
The suggestion that the Europa League place that goes along with winning the trophy might not be guaranteed to the team that finishes fourth in the Premier Division in the event that the Cup was not played this season certainly sharpened the focus.
There will be a strong effort made to accommodate the competition either through midweek rounds or for it to be played off, without non-league teams, from November.
Talks are scheduled with the FAI and all clubs again on Friday but in the meantime the 19 SSE Airtricity League clubs must agree among themselves or a solution will be imposed.
However the 31 July resumption date for football is now the target that clubs who are returning to training can aim for.
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