It’s been another hectic week for the FAI and a frustrating one for clubs and fans alike. With news coming in thick and fast we seem to have a short period of respite making it a good time to take stock of what’s been happening.
Talks between the FAI and all League of Ireland clubs were due to continue today Monday 15th of June. The latest meeting has been deferred back until Wednesday 17th of June. This has once again left the League of Ireland community with no answers to the return of football.
The most recent set of meetings have not seen a solution on starting back the 2020 League of Ireland campaign. Clubs have been unhappy with the financial package presented to them by the FAI. Representatives from the clubs also came out of these meetings still with questions around the return of football.
Most League of Ireland clubs have laid off their players and staff. These are the clubs seen as most vulnerable and in need of a bigger portion of the €1.7 million rescue package. Shamrock Rovers are the only club to agree wage cuts with their players and staff. While Dundalk, Bohemians, Shelbourne and Derry City continue to pay their players in full since the league came to a forced stop in March.
While the clubs who laid off their players are considered more vulnerable no other club should not be financially looked after. Derry City came out and argued that fact.
They believe that because they showed commitment paying their players fully the FAI should show commitment to them. Derry believe the FAI should do that by giving them a greater portion of the rescue fund.
The club released a statement on the matter. They said, “The Derry City board are not yet convinced that the proposed distribution is equitable.” Derry go on to say, “That effort and commitment has not been properly recognised in the proposed distribution of financial compensation.”
This is just one look at how hard of a situation this is. Especially in our league’s money is everything. A lot of clubs are in different financial positions. This will make it hard to satisfy every club, but a lot of people see this as another poorly handled situation by the FAI.
St. Patricks Athletic Football Club have been the latest club to voice their frustration. The chairman of the club Garrett Kelleher has raised big concerns in a recent letter written to board members of the FAI. He took specific aim at the FAI Interim CEO Gary Owens and Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn.
Kelleher feels their performances since taking up their roles within the FAI has been poor. He also said that both Gary Owens and Niall Quinn have lost the trust of St. Patricks Athletic. He feels they mislead clubs when talking about high probability of delivering income from FIFA, UEFA and the Government to help restart the league. The letter would also go on to say Owens and Quinn have done the same while talking about live streaming games.
It was a letter that was very honest and explosive on the part of Kelleher. The letter went on to say that over the past six months Owens and Quinn have failed badly. Especially in such a delicate time for the league. One wrong move by either man could leave lasting damage. Kelleher finished up the letter asking the board of the FAI to step in on the issue.
Dundalk chairman Bill Hulsizer also expressed his concerns with the FAI. He wrote to officials from other clubs recently saying how he felt let down by the organisation over several issues. The main issue being that the League of Ireland is one of only two European leagues with no return date to football.
Sligo Rovers treasurer David Rowe has also spoken out. He has said that because the league has become unwanted it has made clubs fight for scraps.
You can understand the frustration amongst the League of Ireland community. Especially with the recent previously mentioned financial packages been rejected by clubs. Leaving the return of the league still in doubt.
Some ideas have been suggested to raise needed money to get the league going again. One proposal was made to last season’s top four finishers Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City. The proposal would have the clubs contribute €100,000 each from their European money. The clubs rejected this proposal saying it didn’t make business sense. This left the FAI scrambling again.
Another solution to raise funds also involves the four teams due to play in Europe this season. A mini pilot tournament is due to take place between all four clubs this summer to test out the return of Irish football. This tournament could now be scrapped. Leaving the budget that would be used to run this tournament to be used to fund the league restart.
It isn’t all bad news as some optimism is in the air. During all this the League of Ireland First Division seems to be an afterthought. Most of the focus has been on getting the Premier Division back up and running. This left many involved in the second tier of Irish football worried that the league could be a casualty of Covid-19.
The First Division Alliance met with both Gary Owens and Niall Quinn and everyone seems more positive on a summer return. Its hoped that the First Division could return to competitive football by August. Along with a return for women’s and youth football soon.
The First Division Alliance released a statement saying, “The First Division Clubs had a very positive meeting with Gary Owens and Niall Quinn from the FAI this afternoon.” They went on to say, “As a group of clubs, we are increasingly positive about the possibility of returning to competitive action, hopefully in August.” A somewhat good sign for fans of First Division teams.
The PFAI have also said their peace on making sure players are looked after. With them saying that measures will be made to make sure players are paid wages they are owed if football doesn’t return this season.
Fears are growing that League of Ireland football may not return. That it may be made financially impossible to resume football.
This could leave players on the side-line for the next eight months. With them being owed seven months of wages from this calendar year.
PFAI solicitor Stuart Gilhooly has also been speaking on the issue. He said that clubs will be obliged to pay their players wage if the season is brought to an early end. He said on Sunday Sport “The clubs who have paid, they deserve credit, and it certainly would be a big kick in the teeth to them that if they found that having paid contracts, other clubs were getting away with not paying. That is simply not acceptable. The players have a legal right to be paid.”
If players contracts aren’t being honoured there is measures the PFAI could take against clubs. They could try and block a club from gaining their license for the 2021 season. They could even have the option of wind up orders from creditors.
There is still a huge amount of uncertainty around the League of Ireland. It just seemed like a good time to round up the latest big news surrounding the league. We will keep you updated with all your League of Ireland needs here at the Big Kick Off. Hopefully, the latest meeting in the next coming days will give us all some updates.
Stay safe and continue to support your local club. They need us more than ever these days.