Fifa stress FAI autonomy as summer football plan bites dust

Fifa are believed to have underlined the importance they attach to the autonomy of their member associations in their discussions with Sport Ireland yesterday.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of reports that the FAI and the Government are at odds over aspects of the current reform process, in particular plans to have Uefa personnel playing key roles in the transition period at the FAI.

Sport Ireland described yesterday’s meeting with Fifa representatives, headed up by director of European member associations, Bjorn Vassallo, as “very productive” and said that world governing body had expressed “full support for the work of the governance review group” in Abbotstown.

The FAI are also said to regard yesterday’s meeting as productive and useful.

A Sport Ireland statement yesterday read: “Sport Ireland had a very productive meeting with representatives of Fifa this morning.The Fifa representatives received an update on the Governance Review Group, which has been established by Sport Ireland and the FAI. 

"The Fifa representatives expressed their full support for the work of the Governance Group. It was agreed Fifa will be kept fully updated on all matters relating to the work and output of the group.”

Meanwhile, on the domestic football front, it appears to be a case of ‘winter is coming (back)’ for the FAI as they have finally bowed to the inevitable with an official admission that their ambitious player development plan for underage ‘summer football’ is no longer tenable.

Opposition had been spearheaded by the Dublin District Schoolboys’ League (DDSL) and North Dublin Schoolboys’ League (NDSL), who had piloted the experiment in 2018. The goal had been for all leagues to switch to a single calendar-year season by 2020.

However, in the wake of growing criticism from a number of leagues who, among other challenges, cited the impact of holidays and increased competition from the GAA, the FAI and its underage governing body the SFAI, have now accepted that there are insurmountable problems for many in adhering to a calendar season running from March to November.

In a statement yesterday, the FAI board said it was aware a number of SFAI-affiliate leagues “have had difficulty implementing trophy football in the calendar season and feel their leagues would be better equipped to deliver trophy football by following the winter season in line with the school calendar”.

Following discussions between the FAI and the SFAI, the board said it had agreed that: “Any underage league currently playing in the calendar season or about to implement calendar season football may continue to do so; those leagues currently playing in calendar season that have faced serious challenges may consider a return to the winter season; leagues currently playing in the winter season may continue to do so; and SFAI competitions will remain in their current format.”

The FAI and the SFAI are establishing a committee to look into the issue, saying they are aware that any change “may pose challenges, as the non-alignment of the schoolboy season with the National League season can lead to difficulties for various stakeholders.”

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