UEFA ready to step in if Ireland group fails to reach fixtures deal
IRELAND'S Euro 2012 qualifying schedule will be finalised in Moscow today -- provided the six countries competing in Group B agree on dates.
FAI chief executive John Delaney suggested last week that it could be difficult for the representatives of Russia, Slovakia, Ireland, Armenia, Macedonia and Andorra to find common ground. Indeed, there has already been a struggle to decide the venue for this morning's summit, with the Russians eventually pulling rank on the Slovakians, even though Bratislava offered the most central location.
In the event of no fixtures list being agreed, the matter will be referred to UEFA, who will make a random draw to decide a schedule at their meeting in Isreal next week.
That's what is going to happen in Group G, where England agreed their dates but Wales, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Switzerland remained deadlocked, and Group F, which involves Croatia, Greece, Israel, Malta, Georgia and Latvia.
The standard procedure for fixtures meetings is that the top seeds, in this case Russia, state their preferences and then the other nations follow suit.
However, with some nations, particularly Ireland, looking to kill two birds with one stone with respect to long trips to the east, complications will inevitably arise.
Giovanni Trapattoni said recently that he had no real preferences about the order of games. Yet, it is inconceivable to suggest that the 70-year-old will have offered no advice to the Irish delegation of Delaney, president David Blood and Philip Behan, the FAI's operations manager for international matches.
The new Lansdowne Road is due to open for business later this year, Ireland aren't as compromised heading into this campaign as they were for the last World Cup qualifiers.
With Croke Park unavailable in September, Ireland had to start that adventure with away games against Georgia and Montenegro.
Trapattoni was happy with that and feels there would be no harm with kicking off the campaign with another away double-header. However, the FAI will be keen to host a big qualifying game as soon as possible in their new stadium.
An early game against second seeds Slovakia, who will be coming off the back of the World Cup finals, is on the agenda but the Russians may have other ideas.
Ideally, the FAI would like to make the long hike to Armenia part of a double-header, but they must also be conscious of climate conditions.
Taking on Russia close to winter would be inadvisable, while Scotland struggled in the Macedonian heat in September.
Unsurprisingly, a lengthy day of discussions is anticipated.