St Pat’s see no hope of return before September as they lay off players and coaches
Inchicore club’s president says they see a possibility that there will be no return in 2020
St Patrick’s Athletic have laid off all playing staff and coaches. Photo: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho
Just a day after interim FAI CEO, Gary Owens, had suggested that there might be scope to get the Airtricity League up and running again, St Patrick’s Athletic have temporarily laid off the club’s playing and coaching staff after having concluded that there is little or no chance of a return to competitive football before the autumn.
Owens had been reacting to a government announcement that no gatherings of 5,000 people or more are to be allowed before August 31st, the specifics of which, he suggested, might leave open the possibility for the smaller crowds involved in restarting the league. On Tuesday evening he said that he would be seeking clarification on the matter from the public authorities although he acknowledged that any progress in the situation was dependent on the relaxation of current government restrictions which are due to be reviewed before they expire in May 5th.
The government move on Tuesday, however, seemed to be specifically aimed at clarifying the situation for local authorities who might have been coming under pressure to make decisions on licenses for concerts and similar events. St Patrick’s Athletic, in any case, have taken the position that there is little or no possibility that the league will go ahead again in the middle of June, as currently envisaged, and that as a result they needed to act in order to protect its longer term security.
“Essentially we don’t now believe that there is any prospect that we will be playing football before September,” says club president Tom O’Mahony. “And from listening to what government ministers and public health officials are saying, we believe that we will be very lucky to be back playing then.
“We feel that there is quite a possibility that there will be no more football in 2020 but that if there is, it will be quite late in the year. In the meantime, we have been burning through our budget on the basis of the league returning over the weekend of June 19th but we have come to the conclusion that that is not going to happen and we cannot leave ourselves in a position where we are paying wages through the summer, and perhaps the autumn, until we get to the stage where football does actually return but we have completely exhausted all of our funding. That would do very long term damage to the club.
“We are all devastated to find ourselves in this position,” he continued, “but the hope is that by doing what we are doing now, we are actually protecting the club’s future which will ultimately be of benefit to the players. By laying them off now, they become eligible for the government supports and when the football returns we will then be in a position to resume paying them as normal.
“Of course, people might feel we are being overly pessimistic in taking this action but if that proves to be the case and football returns more quickly than we believe it will then naturally we will move quickly to resume the club’s activities.”
If the club is correct, the extended suspension of league football is likely to have a lasting impact on the league. Most immediately, if it becomes apparent that the June 19th restart is unrealistic then other clubs are highly likely to take similar action in terms of cutting costs in order to preserve any funds they still have.
It would also potentially pose particular problems for the four clubs – Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians – that are due to compete in the early rounds of Uefa’s two club competitions. They are currently scheduled to go ahead in mid to late July although there are all sorts of hurdles to be overcome if that is actually to happen, not least the travel restrictions currently being imposed by various countries across Europe.
Uefa’s fixtures working group is due to discuss this and other issues today ahead of an Executive Committee meeting on Thursday.