FAI still eye March restart to League of Ireland

FAI still eye March restart to League of Ireland

The SSE Airtricity League Premier Division trophy. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The FAI still intend on starting the League of Ireland season on March 19 despite level 5 lockdown restrictions remaining in place until at least a fortnight before the big kick-off.

The target is three weeks beyond the original date earmarked for the 2020 season. That tentative date of February 26 was mothballed by the onset of a third wave of Covid-19 in late December and there have been persistent fears since about another deferral.

However, some clubs across both the Premier and First Divisions have commenced pre-season training in the past week on the expectation of the timeline staying intact.

Should level 3 come into force, amid falling health metrics, then players and staff would enjoy dispensation to travel beyond their county boundary for what’s categorised as elite sport.

Under the level 5 regulations, all football activity remains suspended until March 7, with the exception of the senior SSE Airtricity League and senior Women’s National League teams. They are the only categories exempted to train or play.

Otherwise, all collective training as well as adult amateur, Futsal, and underage football activity, including the underage national leagues and all schoolboy/girl leagues, are not permitted for the next six weeks. Only individual training can take place.

Speaking recently, new FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill confirmed they were submitting a “return to play” proposal to the Government.

Meanwhile, Hill and his board have requested from Sport Ireland an extension to the April 1 implementation deadline for key governance reforms.

Under the terms of the €35m bailout deal secured a year ago this week, FAI chairman Roy Barrett agreed to oversee a revamp of structures, including board composition. Although the membership ratified a new electoral code on August 31, replacing the existing senior council with a general assembly, the response has been mixed.

Gary Owens, who preceded Hill on an interim basis, had listed a date of January 11 for an EGM to back the specific rule changes but that has come and gone without any action.

  • Basketball Ireland has scheduled a meeting for next Tuesday to discuss the season at all levels after yesterday’s Government announcement of an extension to level 5 restrictions.

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