A financial package for a return to football is on offer from the FAI. League of Ireland representatives are due to speak with the Abbotstown hierarchy again on Monday.
However, a number of clubs are known to have already expressed the view that, pending clarification on the possibility of further Fifa and Government support becoming available over the next couple of weeks, they will not rush into a decision based solely on the figures which were presented to each club by the FAI yesterday.
June 29 has now emerged as the final deadline date by which the clubs’ intentions will need to be known.
In a statement issued after the Premier Division and First Division clubs met separately by conference call with the FAI, Cork City said: “It is our fervent desire for all of our teams to return to playing football as soon as it is medically and financially safe to do so, and having received the details of the package from the FAI, we will now take a period of time to examine and assess the information.
“We have an obligation to safeguard both the health and well-being of our players and staff, whilst also safeguarding the financial viability of the club, and this is the basis on which we will assess the information received.”
The FAI have put forward a total financial package estimated to be worth €1.7m to help refloat the league but since that sum consists in the main of existing or expected revenue – in the form of Uefa solidarity payments, domestic prize money and funding for the League of Ireland already earmarked in January’s government bail-out for the association – a number of the more financially vulnerable clubs have still to be convinced that there is as yet enough on offer to compensate for the losses they would incur from having to play behind closed doors.
The FAI had initially raised the idea that Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry would contribute €400,000 each from their European prize money but an alternative plan could see their quadrangular tournament planned for next month shelved, and the €250,000 cost of staging it diverted to help restart the league. The four clubs, it has been suggested, would instead be asked to consider contributing a total of €150,000 between them.
Expected support from Fifa’s emergency fund and an extension of the Covid-19 wage subsidy could yet favourably alter the overall picture, while Sports Minister Shane Ross raised hopes in the Dáil on Thursday night of more financial relief being made available to League of Ireland clubs.
Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews has now called on the Department of Sport to establish a “kick-start solidarity grant” for the domestic game.
“This crisis can be a temporary one if state supports are put in place,” he said. “The wages of playing, backroom and support staff of these clubs must be protected as we navigate our way through the months ahead.
‘’The establishment of a kick-start solidarity grant would be a welcome step in the right direction and I have asked Minister Ross to commit that no clubs will be allowed go out of existence due to the Covid-19 crisis, and to engage with both the FAI and League of Ireland clubs to ensure the continued viability of our league.’’