UEFA ‘imploring’ FAI to save League of Ireland season ‘at all costs’

Niall Quinn says UEFA have ‘implored’ the FAI to try and ensure that the League of Ireland returns in 2020.

ut he admitted that plans to do so hinge on Abbotstown’s attempts to secure outside help that minimises financial risk – as they would otherwise be in danger of encouraging clubs to ‘trade recklessly’ by playing behind closed doors without fans.

The FAI’s interim deputy CEO told the LOI Weekly podcast that they’ve had ‘fruitful talks’ with third parties, and they hope to be able to go to club officials with a ‘meaningful’ package that encourages them that it’s worth aiming for an August return.

All of this is pending the approval of health authorities after the government roadmap suggested team sports would be allowed in late summer with firm answers from that end anticipated in the next 24 hours.

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Clubs opposed to the idea have flagged concerns with the health-related costs, vague FAI plans with regard to streaming games and the loss of matchday income, which they are heavily reliant upon.

Quinn has suggested bills for testing will be covered in the package they present, while streaming income won’t make or break their plan.

He declined to go into detail on what alternative sources of income the FAI are trying to pull together but his confirmation that UEFA have offered input is noteworthy.

Guarantees of state support on wage subsidies for the duration of the season is also an essential part of the discussion.

“UEFA will look on us more favourably for doing it,” said Quinn, “And government will, but we need a little bit of help everywhere. That is starting to show and we are confident that we will have something.

“We have a directive from UEFA to try as hard as we can to keep the leagues operable

“We can’t cancel the risk totally, but we would hope that it (gap) will be enough to say lets rally around and go for it.”

The 53-year-old revealed that First Division clubs have written to the FAI to say they are on board with their plans once the package is deemed satisfactory, thus meaning the main job will be to convince mid and lower-ranked Premier Division teams that remain deeply sceptical.

Ultimately, the clubs will have to make the final call, but the Dubliner has warned that the league’s brand could be ‘immeasurably’ damaged if they shut up shop until 2021.

He also voiced fears about player contract disputes if it was decided that the five-game old 2020 season could not be continued.

“We must do everything possible to prevent this from happening,” said Quinn,

“The alternative is just awful for our players and remember that the players are the stars of the show.

“If that is the way the clubs have to go, it’s an unwelcome problem between the club and their contracted players and we’ll have some very difficult conversations.

“UEFA are imploring us to say yes (to a comeback) at all costs. We have to do everything possible to get the show back on the road.”

Quinn added that a July tournament for European clubs at the Aviva Stadium could also be important for demonstrating how closed doors international games could operate later in the year.

Online Editors

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