FAI awaiting feedback from stakeholders on return to play protocols

Financial viability of playing games behind closed doors a major concern for clubs

FAI interim deputy chief executive Niall Quinn. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Representatives of clubs, players and referees and are to provide feedback to the FAI by the end of the week on a detailed document in which the association sets out how a return to training ahead of matches behind closed doors might be implemented in the event that restrictions relating to Covid-19 are eased significantly over the coming weeks or even into summer.

The association has committed to presenting clubs with a financial plan for a return once it has all of the detail required, although its hopes of being able to provide significant funding is likely to be dependent on Fifa going ahead with its proposal to distribute some of its cash reserves to association over the next couple of months. The FAI is understood to have requested up to €7.5 million in support from the game’s world governing body.

In its document, ‘Return To Football – Behind Closed Doors’, the FAI sets out potential protocols for travel to and from games, who could attend and what medical information they would have to provide before being allowed to participate. In total, it is envisaged that just over 200 players, club officials, medical staff, broadcasters and journalists would be permitted to enter stadiums on match days.

It is acknowledged that work would be required in quite a few areas in order to address issues like the space required to safely distance players in dressingrooms and showers as well as the provision of additional medical facilities. Even the match balls used would need to be sanitised, it is stated.

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FAI interim deputy chief executive Niall Quinn described that document as "a real platform for debate about a return to football when we get the go-ahead from Government and health officials. They will of course have the final say on when we return and under what circumstances, but it is imperative to present the best options available to our clubs.

“This document offers the clubs an insight into best practice for staging games behind closed doors. The association also remains committed to exploring the best financial proposition available to our clubs and players at this time. Analysis of the financial impact of playing behind doors is well underway with our clubs and we are examining potential revenue streams from live streaming and other sources.”

Views on whether the association can help clubs to generate anything like the revenues required to make a resumption of the league without spectators financially viable are deeply divided but the four clubs scheduled to play in the qualifying rounds of the European club competitions are said to be especially keen to explore every option.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times