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FAI must decide if club's have the final say


NEW ROLE: Niall Quinn. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

NEW ROLE: Niall Quinn. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

NEW ROLE: Niall Quinn. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

In a week where a new League of Ireland director could be appointed, the FAI will have to decide if clubs have the final say on the format for the rest of the 2020 season.

While there are issues to be thrashed out, there is now a widespread view that the campaign will restart, with Friday's announcement of Government relief for sport making it considerably easier for the FAI board to approve a cash guarantee that props up the €3.3m package.

Indeed, clubs are now waiting to find out if the state support will enhance the return to play terms and conditions. The FAI hierarchy are seeking clarity on how the €40m laid out for the GAA, FAI and IRFU will be divided and there's also another amount laid aside for clubs affected by the pandemic so questions will be asked about whether soccer can tap into that.

There was a lot going on in Abbotstown last week with a new executive structure revealed and applications sought internally for the post of LOI director. Fran Gavin had responsibility in this area, although his brief had broadened out to Competitions Director.

He can apply for this post, yet the expectation in league circles is that Niall Quinn will throw his hat into the ring.

FAI board members do have queries to raise about senior team manager Stephen Kenny taking an executive position.

In the meantime, the FAI have given the impression that clubs will have the final say on the structure for a resumption. This includes the rights and wrongs of settling important matters in a curtailed 18-game season. The length of the season will prompt a fierce debate. As indicated on Friday, senior figures at Dundalk favoured either resetting the points tally (in other words, playing 18 new games) or using the start of next term to decide the all-important European places if there was to be no relegation this term.

But the champions' standpoint now is that state support should be used to prolong the season further with a call to extend the Premier campaign to 27 fixtures in total - nine fewer than the 36 game calendar that was envisaged.

They will have their work cut out to gain the support of  those clubs who are reluctant to incur the additional cost of extending contracts beyond the start of November. 

The likely consensus view is to stick with the 18-game season and replace automatic relegation with a play-off for the side that finishes bottom. 

In that scenario, it becomes plausible that First Division outfits will get their wish of a 12-team top flight in 2021 with two coming up  and the third entering a play-off.

Placing the call in the hands of the clubs is sure to result in tensions. Expect a few more twists and turns.