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Uncertainty looms as league postponed


In the short term, the FAI have to deal with the problems that the Covid-19 stoppage has presented for clubs in the League of Ireland. Photo: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

In the short term, the FAI have to deal with the problems that the Covid-19 stoppage has presented for clubs in the League of Ireland. Photo: Ben McShane/Sportsfile


In the short term, the FAI have to deal with the problems that the Covid-19 stoppage has presented for clubs in the League of Ireland. Photo: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

As the only professional sports team in the county, Sligo Rovers have every right to be concerned about what the future holds, as their season remains uncertain.

The blanket call off of fixtures, instructed by the FAI last week, means that the club will go at least two weeks without games.

In reality, though, it does not look likely that the season will be back underway at the end of the month or even by the start of April.

The club has made no secret of its financial struggles in recent years, and the club relies heavily on the generous fundraising efforts of fans.

In 2019, the club received €491,939 in fundraising and donations.

It costs over €1million to run the club annually, and with no wealthy investor, every cent counts for the club.

That's why the committee of Sligo Rovers, players and fans will be hugely concerned by the impact that the Covid-19 coronavirus may have on the club's future.

The Bit O'Red had played just four games so far this season, losing each one of them.

A lengthy delay to the season will cause massive disruption, and while players have no cause to be concerned just yet about their livelihoods, the future is unclear.

Just yesterday, Monday, it emerged that First Division side Drogheda United have suspended payments to all First Team and Coaching staff given the suspension of the SSE Airtricity League.

Chairman Conor Hoey said: "We need to act now so that the club is financially ready to continue once the League recommences."

It's likely that the Louth based side will be the first of many to take this decision.

The possibility of playing games behind closed doors was mentioned by many, but it was never a realistic prospect, given that clubs would suffer with no income from gates whilst having to continue as normal with the costs of playing games and indeed travelling across the country for games.

It's a far from ideal situation, but this is a much wider issue. There are many businesses that may be in trouble as a result of closures and postponements caused by the virus, Sligo Rovers are not the only ones.

The season has been postponed in the interests of the health and safety of everyone involved.

Rovers' problems are no different to that of other local businesses who are concerned that they may never open their doors again once this crisis eventually comes to an end, or at least shows some signs of slowing down.

"The decision has been taken in light of the growing threat posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and in the best interests of our players, coaches, volunteers, supporters and staff. This decision will be monitored on an ongoing basis," the statement from the FAI said.

It's not just the Rovers senior team impacted by this, all underage teams too have also had to call a halt to their pre-season plans, with all friendlies and training sessions cancelled for the forseeable.

For the senior players, it is a real concern.

As football is their livelihood and essentially their 9 to 5, it is only understandable that they are worried about what might happen.

David Cawley, a stalwart of the club, said they were not surprised when the news arrived that the season had been postponed for a couple of weeks, but they had expected to be able to train as normal.

"We kind of did think that the season would be suspended, there was so much about it," he told The Sligo Champion.

"We didn't think that we wouldn't be allowed to train as normal though.

"I suppose things are so bad that it had to be done but we were all thinking we might be able to train and then play games again in a few weeks."

Rovers players arrived to training last Friday morning expecting to take part in a regular training session, but that wasn't the case.

"We have our own programmes to work on for the time being.

"John Russell put our programmes together so we can all work on that.

"We turned up as normal to training last Friday and we were all given our programmes and they just said 'lads you're not training until March 29th."

The individual training programmes for each players are somewhat similar to the programmes that players would be given to maintain their fitness during the off-season.

"It's hard at the minute," Cawley added. "It's pouring rain so it doesn't make a run easier and the gyms are all closed too.

"It would be handy if the gyms were open and we could go there."

It requires a huge amount of self-discipline from players who have to be clever as it is to stay fit.

But staying at home everyday and with no games to play, it would be easy to slip off schedule.

"You're just stuck in the house and you have to watch what you're eating.

"If you think this might go on for a lot longer than the two weeks it would be easy to let yourself go for a week or two.

"But you can't. You have to work hard to maintain all the fitness you built up over the off-season and then over the course of the start of the season."

As the players are on contracts with the club, it doesn't seem as though players will have to worry about their wages.

But nonetheless, it is a concern for some.

"We haven't spoke about payment or anything but I suppose that is at the back of our minds.

"I'm not going to raise that as an issue or anything because these are really difficult times for everyone," the Ballina man said.

He added: "Hopefully businesses can look after each other and hopefully clubs can be looked after in some way to. If we can get back at it soon and we're still steady then it won't affect us too much.

"Uncertainty is not great and I'm just hoping that there's a decline in the virus sooner rather than later."

On what shape the season would take should it resume, Cawley is unsure as to how it gets back up and running.

"It's so weird. What do you do? We've only played four games. Do we play through the off season? Do we go back in six weeks and continue from there? There's also the suggestion that we play the season like the UK (through the winter).

"There are just so many questions that need ansers. But there's nothing you can do until this all calms down."

In the meantime, Cawley is kept busy at home. With three daughters, including a newborn, his hands are full.

"I think I'm spending the day entertaining them and playing with them, cleaning and then playing with them again and then cleaning.

"Sunday was great so I was able to get outside but being stuck inside in this weather isn't great."

Meanwhile, the 2020 European Championships look to be in doubt due to the ongoing spread of Covid-19.

The Republic of Ireland were due to take on Slovakia on March 26th in the play-off.

That game will now be played behind closed doors, but in reality it is very unlikely that it will go ahead at all.

Sligo Champion