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FAI and NLEC not giving up hope on domestic soccer season

Stephen Doyle
Stephen Doyle

16:07 22 Apr 2020

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the National League Executive Committee (NLEC) are not giving up hope on the 2020 domestic season.

The two parties discussed a number of options this afternoon, including the possibility of playing matches behind closed doors from June or even games taking place with reduced capacities.

The FAI met with the NLEC, which represents the 19 Premier and First Division clubs in the SSE Airtricity League, this afternoon via a online video link to discuss the season following the latest government directives.

The Taosieach Leo Varadkar informed the nation on Tuesday that there will be no mass gatherings of more than 5,000 permitted until at least after the end of August.

All football under the jurisdiciton of the FAI has been suspended since early March with only five rounds of matches played in the Premier Division and just three in the First Division.

The FAI and NLEC have outlined a number of talking points that were on the table in this afternoon's meeting.

  • A resumption for the SSE Airtricity League behind closed doors on June 19th with the season to end no later than the end of December, a ‘behind closed doors’ policy to operate as long as HSE Guidelines recommend.
  • A resumption as planned on June 19th with stadium restrictions in line with HSE Guidelines including ‘behind closed doors’ and reduced capacity at 25% or 50%, the season to run until the end of December.
  • A resumption in July or August, based on Government advice and HSE guidelines.
  • A deferral of all National League activity until September with a reduced fixture programme season to run until the end of December.
  • A resumption of National League football in September with a full fixture programme season to run until the end of February 2021.

NLEC Chairperson Noel Byrne highlighted the need for the clubs and the governing body of Irish football to be united in their efforts to restart the domestic season.

"These are unprecedented times for Irish life never mind football and all our clubs recognise that fact," said Byrne.

"Today’s meeting again emphasized the need for the SSE Airtricity League clubs and the FAI to work together to ensure that our League comes through this difficult period in the best manner possible.

"We discussed all potential outcomes in depth today and we will now formulate a plan for the resumption of our National League that is the best one possible for our clubs, our fans and our players in line with best practice advice from the Government, the HSE and UEFA."

Interim Deputy CEO of the FAI, Niall Quinn has said the association will be communicating with clubs in a bid to try and get matches back underway.

"Today’s meeting was productive and realistic in light of the most recent comments from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, his government and UEFA," Quinn said.

"We all understand the situation the country is in right now and we will continue to follow the guidelines laid down by the HSE and the Department of Health.

"We must also prepare for all eventualities around a return to football. The FAI and the NLEC are now working with the clubs to explore the financial impact around a return to action under all circumstances.

"We are engaging with the clubs now to see what income support they will need to get us back on the field and we look forward to productive engagement with them in the coming days so that we emerge from this difficult period in the strongest manner possible for everyone involved with the SSE Airtricity League."

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