League of Ireland clubs have been presented with a road-map towards a potential return to action behind closed doors.
The working document, entitled ‘Return To Football – Behind Closed Doors’, was developed by the FAI in collaboration with club and player representatives, the National League Executive Committee and PFAI.
It was drafted following a video conference on Tuesday where the PFAI submitted a paper prepared by the world players' union, FIFPRO, on protocols around player safety.
It outlines how staging matches behind closed doors could be achieved to best protect players, match officials, club employees, and volunteers, once Irish football is permitted to resume by the HSE.
Some have been sceptical about the suggested return of football behind closed doors, with Cork City chairman Declan Carey telling the Examiner last week: “I don’t think the club would last too long — or any club in the league for that matter.” St Patrick's Athletic first-team coach Alan Mathews told RTÉ the idea was “not feasible”.
FAI interim CEO Niall Quinn says they are examining alternative revenue streams, primarily around live streaming.
“The working document presented to the clubs today offers a real platform for debate about a return to football when we get the go-ahead from Government and health officials. They will, of course, have the final say on when we return and under what circumstances, but it is imperative on us as a working group to present the best options available to our clubs,” said Quinn.
“This document offers the clubs an insight into best practice for staging games behind closed doors. The Association also remains committed to exploring the best financial proposition available to our clubs and players at this time.
“Analysis of the financial impact of playing behind doors is well underway with our clubs and we are examining potential revenue streams from live streaming and other sources. This is a united effort and we look forward to further engagement with the NLEC, the PFAI, the referees, and the clubs themselves.”
All clubs and elite panel match officials have been asked to assess the document and return their views to the working group.
“It is vital that we examine what is needed in the event of games going on in closed stadiums, from a health and safety perspective for all stakeholders and from a financial aspect as far as the clubs are concerned,” said NLEC chairperson Noel Byrne.
“Our players are keen to support the efforts of the FAI and the NLEC to examine a return to football in a manner that is safe for all involved be they players, match officials, or club staff,” said PFAI General Secretary Stephen McGuinness.
“The FIFPRO document is a high-level recommendation and the FAI have put together the fine details of what playing behind closed doors looks like for all concerned.”