Clubs want cash guarantees from FAI

League of Ireland clubs will demand specific information and financial guarantees from the FAI before agreeing to restart the 2020 season.
Clubs want cash guarantees from FAI

League of Ireland clubs will demand specific information and financial guarantees from the FAI before agreeing to restart the 2020 season.

The Premier Clubs Alliance (PCA) yesterday held a teleconference, their first gathering since the FAI’s unveiled on Friday their roadmap for returning to ‘safe football’ amid easing of the coronavirus-related lockdown.

Central to their blueprint is staging a pilot tournament in July involving the four European club competition participants at Aviva Stadium.

That showcase – and the subsequent resumption of all fixtures across both the Premier and First Division divisions – will be held behind closed doors at Lansdowne and three other venues of Tallaght, Athlone and Thomond Park in Limerick.

Exactly how and when the FAI can compensate 19 clubs for the lack of matchday revenue and sponsorship income remains the key question, prompting several clubs to vent their concerns in yesterday’s virtual summit.

It was agreed that a letter would be drafted and sent to the FAI seeking specific answers about the proposed financial model.

FAI deputy chief executive Niall Quinn has admitted the resumption challenge resembles a jigsaw but, with the State confirming the timeframe for reopening the country and players overwhelmingly backing a return in a ballot, all that’s remaining to ratify the move is buy-in from the clubs.

That appears to be a long distance away, given the tone of today’s club brainstorm, and despite a postponement today by Uefa of their next executive committee meeting from next week until June 17 presenting additional time to broker a solution, a pervading sense of frustration exists.

Based on the FAI’s estimates, to resume the Premier Division season with a shortened 18-series schedule, a sum of €2.7m has to be found.

Those costs include medical testing, infrastructural upgrades for facilitating streaming at stadia and, more contentiously, a payout to each club to meet the shortfall.

Nothing has occurred since those projections were outlined to clubs by interim chief executive Gary Owens last Thursday to generate confidence among the foot-soldiers.

Owens didn’t commit to having all the funding in place, chiming with Quinn’s daring public plea for clubs to take a ‘leap’ in helping them meet Uefa’s directive of concluding the season.

Where Owens and Quinn haven’t be so aligned is the scope of income generated by selling streaming rights.

While the former Ireland international has long been a fan of maximising the allure of delivering live broadcast to fans, even before closed doors became part of the new norm, Owens hasn’t been championing the venture as a windfall.

ChyronHego/Trackchamp already pay the FAI a modest €150,000 for streaming fixtures to their betting punters while RTÉ and eir Sport have secured the big matches in their current packages.

Thursday’s meeting of the FAI’s National League Executive Committee (NLEC), on which clubs from both divisions are represented, is the next milestone for discussion but clubs are fast developing fatigue syndrome at the range of outstanding issues.

A suggestion by Owens during last week’s conference that the FAI would leave dissenting clubs behind in their bid to get professional football back up and running was also scoffed at.

Meanwhile, the FAI’s medical director, Dr Alan Byrne, has defended their decision to delay League of Ireland training until June 8.

Dundalk boss Vinny Perth bemoaned the fact that under the guidelines his players are permitted to play golf but not train together from today’s Phase One in the lifting of lockdown.

“Intuitively, we know we can social distance in golf and tennis but I don’t think we can say the same about football,” Dr Byrne told FAITV.

“There’s talk of pitches but not specifically football. My understanding is that if we rushed into organised football, it could be viewed as careless and irresponsible.

“Football is a contact sport, albeit the evidence I’ve gathered shows that the time is small.

"We need to translate that into a practical plan around training, after first testing the players.”

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