Relegation row stalls FAI plan to restart League of Ireland

On the day the GAA mapped out their draw and fixtures, the FAI were still struggling to end the deadlock among clubs on a restart format for the national league.
Relegation row stalls FAI plan to restart League of Ireland
Stephen Kenny: Potentially eight games between September and November.

On the day the GAA mapped out their draw and fixtures, the FAI were still struggling to end the deadlock among clubs on a restart format for the national league.

Major progress around financing the remainder of the season from July 31 was made due to state and Fifa emergency support but divisions remain across the Premier and First Division tiers on the promotion and relegation consequences of the shortened season.

While some top-flight clubs were ardent objectors to any side dropping down, most have accepted that the bottom team of the 10 lose their status going into 2021.

It is the possibility of the second-last team entering a play-off for survival which is now proving the sticking point.

Premier clubs contend that format, whereby one First Division side emerges from a play-off series to face a showdown against the second bottom Premier side, was based on a full 36 games schedule.

Under post Covid-19 proposals, the season will be completed in 18 games, four or five of which were already played before the league suspension in March.

First Division clubs, in their counter-argument, presented a convoluted play-off concept leading to an expansion of the Premier Division to 12 sides from next year.

Sceptics pointed out that the top tier was only reduced from 12 to 10 teams in 2018 but others insist this extraordinary year merits a one-off compromise.

Efforts by all 19 clubs and the FAI to resolve the matter by teleconference yesterday ended without agreement.

Gone from the table in yesterday’s summit was the threat of relegation to dissenters issued late on Thursday.

An unsigned email from the FAI legal department highlighted a clause in the Participation Agreement zeroising the points of any club that failed to complete the campaign.

Aside from the relegation picture, the FAI Cup’s place in the 2020 calendar is by no means finalised either.

If the tweaked competition is to proceed, it is understood the last three rounds, including the final at Tallaght Stadium, will be played off in a blitz after the league completes in early November.

Republic of Ireland schedule

Stephen Kenny: Potentially eight games between September and November.
Stephen Kenny: Potentially eight games between September and November.

It had already been confirmed that Stephen Kenny’s reign will commence in September with a Uefa Nations League double-header against Bulgaria and Finland.

However, the original dates for the October and November fixtures in a group also containing Wales have been moved.

That’s due to the play-offs for Euro 2020, pushed out by year to next summer due to Covid-19, will also be contested within the same 10-week period.

As Ireland will travel to Slovakia on Thursday, October 8, for the Euro play-off, their Nations League match against Wales at the Aviva Stadium has been moved to Sunday, October 11 (2pm). They complete the expanded international window with a third game in Helsinki against Finland (6pm, local time).

In the following month, should Ireland prevail against the Slovaks, they’ll visit either Bosnia-Herzegovina or Northern Ireland in the play-off final on Thursday, November 12. A friendly in Dublin is likely to be arranged if they get knocked out.

Concluding the Nations League schedule will be a pair of matches against Wales in Cardiff on Sunday, November 15 (5pm), and the hosting of Bulgaria three days later on Wednesday, November 18 (7.45pm).

Ireland’s seeding in the draw for the 2022 World Cup on November 29 will be determined by their ranking at the end of the Nations League. They are currently positioned 34 in the standings.

There will also be two berths on offer in the World Cup play-offs from the Nations League.

Republic of Ireland 2020 schedule:

Uefa Nations League Group B4 fixtures Tuesday, September 3: Bulgaria v Rep of Ireland (7.45pm).

Sunday, September 6: Rep of Ireland v Finland (5pm).

Uefa 2021 Play-off semi-final:

Thurs, October 8: Slovakia v Ireland (KO TBC).

Uefa Nations League Group B4 fixtures:

Sunday, October 11: Rep of Ireland v Wales (2pm).

Wednesday, October 14: Finland v Rep of Ireland (6pm local time).

Uefa 2021 Play-off final:

Thursday, November 12: Bosnia-Herzegovina/Northern Ireland v Slovakia/Rep of Ireland (KO TBC).

Uefa Nations League Group B4 fixtures:

Sunday, November 15: Wales v Rep of Ireland (5pm).

Wednesday, November 18: Rep of Ireland v Bulgaria (7.45pm).

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up