Relegation has become a key issue in the ongoing talks between the FAI and clubs aimed at restarting the League of Ireland season. A final decision has yet to be taken on whether to stage the FAI Cup or not but the latest version of the schedule, which envisages an October 31st conclusion to the campaign, suggests that while the final might still be held a week later, the competition may not happen this year.
With significant progress made on the money front this week and a growing sense that testing will not be required for games staged in clubs’ own stadiums, there is far more optimism that the season will resume on July 31st.
Having started the season so poorly, however, Sligo Rovers are said to be wary of a situation in which they would have only 14 games to battle their way out of the drop zone and clubs like Finn Harps, Waterford and Cork City will also have concerns about their top flight status being threatened amid the coronavirus-related mayhem.
The association’s inclination had been to proceed on the basis there would be relegation, but Uefa is said to have been approached for its view on the potential reallocation of the FAI’s Cup European spot for this season and the question of whether relegation could be done away with for a year.
If it is completely, then the association will face the option of telling First Division clubs that there will be no promotion this year or expanding the top flight, at least on a temporary basis. The former approach would mean large numbers of meaningless games in both divisions.
“I think not having relegation would open up all sorts of integrity issues,” says Stephen McGuinness of players’ union, the PFAI. “It wouldn’t be a great situation to get into where games against teams with nothing to play for were deciding the league and there would be a lot of games with nothing at stake.”
Another issue still being addressed is streaming. The intention is to sell access to streamed games for €5 each with season long passes for €55 (within Ireland) and €69 (overseas). Existing season ticket holders at clubs are only to be offered a discount on passes rather than free access, something that will impact on the level of compensation clubs might have to offer their most loyal fans.