Decision made on League of Ireland but discontent continues

Sligo Rovers treasurer David Rowe said the club had been “railroaded” and “mugged from all sorts of sides”.
Sligo Rovers treasurer David Rowe said the club had been “railroaded” and “mugged from all sorts of sides”.

The National League Executive Committee (NLEC) yesterday announced that the SSE Airtricity League will resume on July 31 but will consist of just two rounds of fixtures for a total of 18 matches per club instead of the usual 36.

That includes games already played and it leaves some clubs with as few as 13 league games to go.

The sticking point came in the form of proposed promotion/relegation slots.

Nine of the Premier Division sides argued that only one club should go up and down given the truncated campaign.

Shamrock Rovers and the First Division sides argued for another to be decided via a play-off, as was originally the case before the shutdown.

The latter scenario was adopted meaning the sides finishing second through to fifth in the second tier will play-off among themselves for the right to face the club that sits ninth in the Premier and, ultimately, a place in the top division for 2021.

Discontent wasn’t long in surfacing with Sligo Rovers describing the decision as “of particular disappointment” and something to which they had sternly objected.

“We believe it is grossly unfair, unjust and do not see the matter as concluded,” a statement read.

The Connacht club is in a precarious position, rooted to the foot of the Premier Division without a point from their first four games, but there was confirmation that they will return to play this season as failure to do so would have left the club in danger of extinction.

Sligo estimate that they have lost 70% of their income this year already and uncertainty over how long the government’s wage subsidy scheme will continue, and whether or not spectators will be allowed attend any matches, is adding to financial fears for all clubs.

Cork City delivered a ‘no comment’ but are expected to issue a statement of their own in due course. The Leeside club are currently second from bottom in the top flight and thus in the eye of this particular storm over relegation matters as things stand.

Shamrock Rovers were first out of the blocks with a statement stating their satisfaction with the decision and one they have “supported and stood by”.

Shamrock Rovers are one of three Premier League clubs on the NLEC and Sligo treasurer David Rowe was bitterly disappointed that the Tallaght club had used its vote in favour of the play-off option rather than the one automatic place as desired by the other nine top-flight outfits.

Decision made on League of Ireland but discontent continues

“It is blatantly unfair,” he said of the decision and how it was decided.

“I know there have been court cases in other jurisdictions on similar decisions.

“There are talks of boycotts and all sorts of stuff. I’m not too sure where it is going to go to but there is anger amongst the nine Premier clubs.”

Sligo, he said, had been “railroaded” and “mugged from all sorts of sides”.

Niall Quinn, interim deputy chairman of the FAI, was another to embrace it even if he accepted that the outcome wasn’t “entirely perfect”.

“The NLEC decided today to go with what is known as option one, which was effectively the least disruptive offering that was on the table,” he reasoned.

“So what it means for football, I guess, is that there’s clarity in the air now and we know a lot more about what resuming is going to look like. So that clarity is important.”

Meanwhile, the FAI Cup final will take place on Friday, November 27 at Tallaght Stadium.

In the scramble to finish the season from the restart date of July 31, the competition came under threat.

However, it will proceed in a re-jigged format, with the rounds from the quarter-finals through to the final condensed into a two week period once the league campaign concludes in late November.

The home of holders Shamrock Rovers, Tallaght, is set to host the decider rather than the traditonal venue of the Aviva Stadium.

Prize money and savings on costs is to be shared among the last eight to offset extended player wage requirements.

Unlike previous years, due to the unprecedented circumstances, non-league teams won’t be involved.

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