Football

League of Ireland On Track For August Restart After Significant Progress In Talks

League of Ireland On Track For August Restart After Significant Progress In Talks

The League of Ireland may finally have a plan for its resumption after significant progress in talks last night.

However, there are still several points of contention with various stakeholders, with plans to scrap both promotion/relegation and the FAI Cup drawing the ire of the PFAI and various managers. Dundalk manager Vinny Perth and Derry City manager Declan Devine have warned that the campaign could turn into a 'participation' league if several teams have no purpose for playing.

Furthermore, the FAI were expected to seek clarity from UEFA over the possibility of scrapping relegation and the FAI Cup, for fear of missing out on one of the league's priceless European slots. It is to be believed that UEFA will abdicate responsibility to the FAI on those matters, with the Europa League slot for the FAI Cup winners moving to the team that finishes fourth in the league. There is a precedent already available for the FAI, with the suspension of Dutch football leading to Willem II receiving a spot in the Europa League rather than the victors of the KNVB Cup final between Feyenoord and Utrecht.

However, the PFAI and certain players, particularly Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers, have been vocal in their opposition against the scrapping of the FAI Cup for the season.

It should be said that the FAI's preferred method of closing the season is to have the FAI Cup final in the AVIVA Stadium in mid-November.

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Despite these qualms, there is more confidence that a plan can be put in place to see a return to football on our shores.

The FAI have increased the potential pot for returning clubs from €1.7m to €3.3m, following pressure from St Patrick's Athletic chairman Garrett Kelleher on the FAI's "failure" to ensure requisite funding for the resumption of the league.

In last night's meeting, clubs were not given a breakdown on whether the additional funds were to come from. Measures such as a scrapping of neutral venues, removal of COVID-19 testing and a reduction in the cost of live streaming has lead to a bigger pot for teams.

Furthermore, the government's announcement on capacity's for outdoor events have meant that there could be a possibility that a limited number of fans could attend games when the league plans to resume at the beginning of August.

Phase 4 of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions is set to begin on July 20, with up to 500 people allowed to attend outdoor events.

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Sean Meehan

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