League of Ireland club and player representatives received assurances on Friday from Minister for Sport Shane Ross that securing the league’s future will be a central theme when he meets senior representatives of Union of European Football Associations (Uefa) on January 14th.
The meeting is intended to provide an opportunity for the Government and European football’s governing body to discuss ways in which the immediate financial requirements of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) can be addressed.
However, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin is not expected to attend despite the threat of one of its affiliates going under for the very first time.
Those who attended Friday’s meeting with Mr Ross in Dublin, which Minister of State Brendan Griffin addressed via video link, said both men were at pains to emphasise the importance they attached to the continued development of the senior club game during the two-hour discussion.
Likelihood of collapse
After the scale of the FAI’s financial problems emerged, Mr Ross suggested the league would be likely to collapse if the association went into examinership or liquidation.
But he quickly back-tracked on those comments and is said to have given the impression at Friday’s meeting that the FAI would not be allowed to fail.
The FAI board earlier this week issued an apology to “the hundreds and thousands involved with Irish football at all levels of the game, to the Irish public and to FAI staff” following its reconvened agm in Dublin. “The clear message from our delegates today is that Irish football wants to move forward and we apologise to all our stakeholders for the mistakes of the past,” it said.
In addition to representatives of clubs from around the country, a number of players attended Friday’s meeting, including Republic of Ireland international Jack Byrne and officials from the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland.
Two FAI board members – Martin Heraghty of Sligo Rovers and Richard Shakespeare of UCD – were also there.
One of the points said to have been raised during the meeting was the use of millions in funding already received by the FAI from Uefa.
“It was a positive enough meeting, people got the opportunity to voice their concerns,” said PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness, “and one of the things he was asked about was where that money had gone because none of it seemed to have come into the league.”
Mr Ross said afterwards it was “vital” he and Mr Griffin heard the views of those associated with the league before meeting Uefa.