The Premier Clubs Alliance (PCA) have written to FAI Chairman Roy Barrett demanding an investigation into the decision on the relegation format for the shortened season.
St Patrick’s Athletic vice-chairman Anthony Delaney, claiming to represent the majority of top-flight clubs, insists the process was flawed and raises governance questions.
The club’s owner, billionaire Garrett Kelleher, recently attributed the delay in providing a compensation package to clubs amounted to a failure by interim chief executive Gary Owens and his deputy Niall Quinn.
While the former Ireland striker has been publicly lauding the resumption from July 31 since the National League Executive Committee (NLEC) made the decision to retain the original relegation format on Thursday, deep divisions are threatening to add another episode to the prolonged saga.
The PCA are aghast that the desire of nine top-flight clubs to apply a system whereby one team would be relegated to make way for the First Division champions in the 2021 campaign was discarded.
Despite the schedule being halved to 18 games under the restart, of which most teams had already contested five before Covid-19 suspended fixtures in March, the second-last club will have to negotiate a play-off to survive.
On the back of Sligo Rovers warning within hours that the matter “wasn’t concluded”, the PCA have “reserved their position”.
“The clubs see the decision foisted on us as irresponsible and contrary to the very same objectives we have seen publicised by the new regime, i.e. the promotion of LOI,” they say in their letter to Barrett, the first-ever independent Chairman appointed six months ago.
“It has come to light that clubs within this group were lobbied and pressurised by members of the FAI executive to change their position to that adopted by the First Division clubs after initially submitting letters to the FAI stating their preference for the relegation/promotion situation last weekend. There was widespread displeasure at the performance of the executives.
“Collectively, the Premier clubs will invest in the region of €10m in the domestic game this year, over 10 times that invested by the First Division and yet we find ourselves dictated to by them and the executives of the FAI.
“This cannot persist; it is simply unsustainable that those of us who invest what we do in football should be dictated to in such a manner.” Ultimately, no final decision can be made until the FAI board, members of which has been contacted by concerned clubs, rubberstamp the format.
Conversely, and understandably, First Division clubs have welcomed retaining the system whereby four teams will enter the play-off.
“The past 24 hours should have been a wonderful opportunity to push positive news about our League and detail football's emergence from Covid-19 but this opportunity does not appear to have been taken,” said a Cobh Ramblers statement.
“It is very disheartening to see that many have chosen to focus on the negative narrative. There are many clubs out there, Cobh Ramblers included, who are delighted with the arrangement and are just happy to be given the opportunity to set foot on a pitch again.”