As negotiations between the FAI and the clubs resume today in a bid make progress on a plan for the resumption of the League of Ireland, Cork City chairman Declan Carey says the club is doing its utmost to get back playing and would only consider non-participation this season as a last resort.
“We’re a football club at the end of the day and we want to be back playing games as soon as possible,” he said. “Previously, we had expressed a strong desire to not play games behind closed doors and that was mainly because of the financial impact it would have and from the perspective of atmosphere. But the more we speak to the management and get feedback from the players, the more it’s clear they want to be back playing, so we’re doing our utmost to make sure that happens.
“And if it is a case that it’s a number of games behind closed doors for a couple of months, we’ll swallow that if the finances make sense and if the FAI support us with the right practices to make sure that players are fully safe.
“Make no mistake we want to get back playing games. We started the rebuilding process for the club back in January and we want to continue that. To pause things until next February wouldn’t be ideal. We would only look at that as a last resort if financially it was impossible for us to come back this season.”
Carey also believes it’s important that no club is left behind if and when the league does resume.
“It’s not just about us,” he says. “Our needs are very different to the likes of Dundalk and they’re very different to the likes of Finn Harps, and all the teams in the First Division. We have act together in this, be united, and work with the FAI as best they can and as best we can.
“Every club will have their own opinion on this but ours is that we need all clubs back, really. It’s no good if only six or eight clubs come back playing and finish off the season. That would reduce the number of games, make the competition not as fierce as it was. In our section of the table, with teams of similar standards to us, the competition would have been pretty high to finish top of that particular pack.”
While the sourcing of additional funding to compensate clubs for the loss of crucial match-day revenue – not just from gate receipts but also sponsorship and sales merchandise – is key to brokering a deal which will allow for a restart of the league behind closed doors, it is by no means the only issue up for discussion.
One idea which has been doing the rounds is that, to help insulate vulnerable top-flight clubs against longer-term damage, relegation might be suspended for what would be a shortened season.
“From Cork City’s perspective we’re more than happy to play the season out according to the rules in place,” says Carey. “We want things to be as fair as possible. We know we’re rebuilding and we know we’re going to be more competitive with the clubs in the bottom six of the table. That’s where we are and we’re not looking to get any kind of competitive advantage from a crisis like this.
“But I definitely think the effects of this crisis will certainly impact two seasons and I’d imagine that would be the case for a lot of leagues in Europe. I think it will take 18 months to finally resolve itself and get back to a regular calendar. The league in the past has shown that we have been able to switch from ten teams to twelve. We’ve yo-yoed between different formats for decades. These are unprecedented times and if we have to look at those types of scenarios, so be it.”
In related news, Finn Harps have launched a GoFundMeAppeal aimed at raising €30,000 to facilitate hosting of games, in line with public health protocols, at Finn Park, should the green light be given for clubs to play matches at home rather than in neutral venues.
Meanwhile, Alan Reynolds has described bringing his management of Waterford to a close as “one of the most difficult decisions” of his career.
“I feel honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to manage my hometown club not once but twice,” he said. “This is a club I grew up supporting and that is something I will continue to do.”
Reynolds is being linked with a coaching role on U21 manager Jim Crawford’s staff as well as with the position of assistant to Vinny Perth at Dundalk, as a replacement for Ruaidhri Higgins.