PFAI chief McGuinness welcomes Government move on pay

No return to action until April 19th date set out by Government

PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

As the Government announced a new range of measures aimed at combating the spread of the Covid-19 virus and extended those already in place until at least April 19th, the FAI has followed suit with the association making it clear that no football is to be played until at least the middle of next month.

Though inevitable in the circumstances, the move is another blow to the game at every level across the country, although the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland has taken some consolation from the new supports introduced by Government to help both employers and workers with the union’s general secretary Stephen McGuinness saying they “could be a huge help”.

The union will meet on Wednesday to consider the financial implications of the latest announcement but McGuinness sees the proposals as a potential lifeline for the league’s middle-ranking clubs, several of whom have been struggling from virtually day one to cope with the fall-out of the coronavirus crisis.

“The devil will be in the detail,” says McGuinness of the measures which include an increase in the amount paid to those who lose their jobs as a result of the current crisis to €350 and a contribution of up to €450 towards the pay of those workers who are kept on by employers.

The latter figure is intended to represent 70 per cent of the net pay of somebody on the State’s average annual salary of €38,000, a figure that would be based on a 52-week working year. The terms applicable to the majority of the roughly 200 full-time players in the Airtricity League are not so straightforward but McGuinness still believes it is a move that should benefit a large number of the PFAI’s members.

As things stand, the hope is that players will get back into what would be their second “pre-season” by the middle of May so as to be fully fit for the proposed June 19th restart of a season that is now intended to run into early December, with the loss of a quarter of the originally scheduled top-flight games.

“Some of the clubs had already stopped paying while others have adjusted the players’ wages so that the original value of the contract will be paid but over the extended period, so there will be things we need to talk through,” says McGuinness.

“We spoke to representatives of players from around the clubs yesterday and they made it clear how important getting at least four weeks of preparation is. But I think it’s a fairly safe bet that they won’t be turning up for that unless they are getting paid.

“But this helps. We will have to have a look at the numbers and what they mean but it definitely looks like it will be an important part of it all. It could be a huge help. We will look at it tomorrow.”

In the meantime, the FAI’s move will affect every level of the game and represents a three-week extension beyond the date set for the end of its original ban on matches or club training, which had been announced on March 12th. In a statement it said simply that it was extending the shutdown following directives from Government, the Department of Health and Uefa.

The association has again opted to stick precisely with the dates set down by the public authorities in the hope that an easing of the restrictions might allow it some room for manoeuvre as leagues and affiliates look to resume or complete seasons.

With the worst of the crisis still believed to lie ahead, though, and a reluctance on the part of the authorities to allow an early resumption of sport for fear it might contribute to a second wave, it seems hard at this stage to imagine an awful lot of football being played at any level much before the June 19th target date for restarting the Airtricity League.

There are those who already believe that that date is hopelessly optimistic in the current circumstances and there remains enormous doubt about whether the rescheduled Euro 2020 playoffs, currently pencilled in for early June, will be able to proceed, not least because of the added complication presented by the international travel required.

Given the speed with which the situation is developing, however, the truth simply is that nobody knows for sure right now.

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