FAI hoping 18,500 fans could attend Finland match in September
On Wednesday the FAI will also resume efforts to strike a deal with Airtricity League clubs
The FAI are increasingly hopeful that Ireland fans could attend internationals in September. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The FAI is hoping to be allowed sell almost 18,500 tickets for its game against Finland in the event that Uefa confirms a September kick-off for the second edition of the Nations League.
Associations from across Europe are to be briefed by the European federation on a wide range of issues after a meeting of its Executive Committee on Wednesday, with the scheduling of the international windows for the tail-end of this year high on its agenda.
With leagues restarting in many countries across Europe and local restrictions on public events starting to ease, the line-up of games could be much as it looked in April with a triple header for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland side in October and, if they can beat Slovakia in Bratislava, another the following month.
The expectation is that the Euro2020 playoff games will be played first in the two windows which run from October 5th to 13th and November 9th to 17th with October 7th and November 11th the most likely dates for the games.
The fate of the September window, currently pencilled in for between August 31st and September 8th, is less certain. Uefa want to go ahead with it but as things currently stand it falls immediately before the expected starts of the 2020/21 Premier League and La Liga seasons and both organisations are said to be keen to see it moved.
If Uefa press ahead with it, however, it is likely to represent a significant piece of good news for the FAI which would, it hopes, get to stage the Finland game in front of an audience of 18,500 people at the Aviva stadium.
For that to happen the current two metre social distancing rule would have to be reduced to one metre, otherwise the maximum number of fans in the stadium would have to be capped at 8,200.
The hope is that, in the event that the numbers of coronavirus cases across Europe continues to decline and the related public health restrictions – including social distancing protocols – continue to be eased, then the numbers permitted to attend the games against Wales and Bulgaria might be increased – something that would provide a much needed boost to the revenues of the association here. Clearly, though, a second wave of cases would impact on those hopes.
As things stand, though, 38 leagues are expected to have resumed football by the end of this month with around half of them allowing some supporters into grounds.
The continued restrictions in many countries will, however, complicate the staging of the early qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League which are set to be squeezed into a period of just six weeks or so over the latter part of August and September
With the draw likely to be scheduled for August 9th and 10th, the competitions themselves look likely to be played over the weeks of August 18th, 25th and September 16th. The playoffs then look set to be lined up for the weeks of September 23rd and 30th.
With more than 200 ties to get through, the early legs seem almost certain to be decided by one-off games with home advantage decided by either a drawing of lots or seeding where neutral venues are not absolutely required.
Uefa have previously suggested that prize money, more than important than ever this year to the clubs scheduled to participate, will not be affected but that too is likely to be clarified when national associations are briefed.
A range of other matters are due to be dealt with by the ExCo meeting including Euro2020, the rescheduling of women’s club competitions and underage national events.
Later in the day, Gary Owens and Niall Quinn of the FAI will resume their efforts to secure an agreement with clubs to get the Airtricity League up and running again.
There is no expectation of any significant new money being put on the table but there may be an attempt to reapportion the pot outlined last week and to compress the proposed conclusion of the season so that it starts in early August then ends in late October or early November in another attempt to win over some of the clubs.
The frustration felt by some of those involved was highlighted again on Monday when St Patrick’s Athletic chairman Garrett Kelleher wrote to three members of the FAI board requesting that they take a lead in the process. Kelleher said that Owens and Quinn had “failed badly” in their efforts.
There is a sense that one or more of the clubs simply will not return unless either the Government or Fifa substantially boosts the fund available to the FAI to help with the return. The prospects for Waterford were not helped on Tuesday as manager Alan Reynolds confirmed his resignation.
Reynolds acknowledged the Covid-19 lay-off and the way players at the club were informed by email that their pay was to be stopped last month. “I was disappointed with the way that it was handled,” he told The Irish Times after his departure had been announced. “I wanted to stay but I have to do what is right for me and my family”.