The FAI have strongly advised that collective training should not take place for the period covered by the suspension of football in Ireland.
However, in the absence of an outright ban on training – and amid what one source described as “some confusion” on the issue - League of Ireland clubs appear to be deciding on an individual basis whether or not to follow the recommendation.
The FAI’s Competitions Director Fran Gavin wrote to SSE Airtricity League, Women’s National League and Underage League clubs to inform them that the FAI’s Medical Director, Dr Alan Byrne, “strongly advises” that they should not engage in “collective training” during the cessation period which runs until March 29.
The FAI, the National League Executive Committee and the players’ union, the PFAI, are represented on a six-man steering group which has been set up to address the Covid-19 crisis.
While the PFAI have endorsed the FAI ‘s medical advice on training, it's understood that club reps at today’s daily meeting of the steering group expressed the view that, so long as HSE hygiene guidelines are being observed, it should be left up to clubs to decide on how to proceed.
Waterford have already made public their decision to suspend training, at least until March 24, with manager Alan Reynolds saying earlier: “This morning I met with our club doctor Sinead Fitzpatrick to discuss the potential impact on player (and club officials) safety. After discussing this and taking on board the information from the FAI medical officer, Alan Byrne, the decision has been made to suspend all training immediately for 12 days.
“On Wednesday the 24th of March we will re-assess this decision based on the information provided by the government, FAI and UEFA. Players, fans and the wider public’s health must come first. Based on all information coming in to us, it seems to be the right thing to do. I would like to thank everyone for your understanding and for your continued support.”
Meanwhile, addressing the challenge for Irish footballers presented by the suspension of the season, St Patrick’s Athletic manager Stephen O’Donnell has said the club will do all it can to help its players through the challenging period ahead.
“The players have worked very hard over pre-season and now this is calling a halt to everything,” he said. “We have to look after the players as best as possible and, first and foremost, everyone’s health and safety is paramount, and then we’ll take it from there.
“We just have to put our players in the best position to be as fit as they can be and to be as mentally as tuned in as they can be when it’s time for kick-off again. These are unprecedented waters we’re in. Nobody has had experience of this type of stuff before so everyone is in the same boat. We’re just going to have to roll with the punches."