League of Ireland players have taken the opportunity to express their “frustrations and concerns” to Niall Quinn in the light of ongoing uncertainty about when and how domestic football might resume.
“It was important for Niall to hear the frustrations and concerns of the players and important for the players to hear, from the FAI point of view, what the roadmap is for a return to play,” said PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness, following a video conference call between the union’s player delegates and the FAI’s interim deputy CEO.
McGuinness added: “The players listened to what Niall had to say, asked the questions that were relevant to the league and relevant to their clubs, and probably understood afterwards that they need to give a little bit more time to allow the FAI to put a package together that can see football return.”
The delay in providing details of how the FAI intend to source funding for a resumption of football behind closed doors — an unprecedented initiative which would have serious financial implications for a league which is hugely dependent on gate receipts — has been a source of considerable debate, and no little agonising, among players and clubs in recent weeks.
Last week, a teleconference meeting between the clubs and the governing body heard that details of any financial package were not expected to be put on the table for at least another fortnight.
In the absence of concrete information on the critical funding, Premier Division clubs have appeared to be divided on the feasibility, both on health and financial grounds, of the games being played behind closed doors.
The uncertainty has also left individual players deeply concerned about their own livelihoods.
However, it’s understood that work on finalising the plan for a return to play continues behind the scenes, and, earlier this week, it received a boost with confirmation that the league’s first round of Covid-19 testing, at Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians, had produced all negative results.
The tests, which were paid for by the FAI, were carried out by AMS (Advanced Medical Services), an Ireland and UK-based provider of on-site medical services to sporting organisations as well as schools, hospitals and corporates.
June 29 is the date set for a return to collective training for the rest of the League of Ireland teams but it’s impossible to see how, given the massive costs that are involved, extended testing could be undertaken for the entire league without the involvement of the HSE.
In the meantime, last season’s top four are on course to make an earlier return to training on June 8, in advance of a planned mini-tournament which the FAI have said is designed to help their preparation for participation in European competition — should the latter be given the green light by Uefa — as well as functioning as part of a pilot programme aimed at ensuring a safe return for football at all levels.