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LOI in danger as FAI board come under Dáil pressure 

European clubs asked to give up portion of prize money in attempts to find solution

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Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers will battle it out for the title when play resumes

Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers will battle it out for the title when play resumes

SPORTSFILE

Minister for Sport Shane Ross. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Minister for Sport Shane Ross. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

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Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers will battle it out for the title when play resumes

The FAI are running out of time to come up with a conclusion to save the 2020 League of Ireland season after telling clubs more talks were required before they could present firm financial figures.

And it's understood that the lack of certainty about external support has resulted in the four European qualifiers being asked to consider if they would give up some of their UEFA prize money to help other clubs who feel that restarting isn't viable.

The idea was initially floated informally in the course of an eventful day which culminated with Dáil questions on FAI reform with Minister for Sport Shane Ross defending the new FAI Board and denying he had a role in recruiting new chair Roy Barrett.

But the top four donation plan was later presented formally in a separate meeting with representatives of Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City.

Doubts are now hanging over their mini tournament which was supposed to function as a return to football. Reducing the FAI outlay on that is an alternative to asking for a bigger chunk of their UEFA funds.

The move highlights the FAI's struggle to secure cash to bump up a compensation package.

Queries about the lack of progress in attempts to restart the league were raised in parliamentary questions with Sinn Fein TD Chris Andrews, a Shamrock Rovers fan, stating that his understanding was that there was a sense of 'despondency' amongst clubs following the much anticipated FAI meeting.

With no guarantees on mooted relief from FIFA and talks ongoing with government about fresh support - Ross did say he would be 'amazed' if the LOI wasn't factored into a broader national compensation plan - the FAI could only float redirecting existing funding streams with a view to a breakthrough.

Talks with the European clubs was the first of a series of summits before another call with all clubs today.

The quartet are very keen for this campaign to be saved, but they will have budgeted for income from Europe (€800k for Dundalk and €240k for the other three) and, while the concept of sharing the riches has been suggested from a longer term perspective, bringing it into the equation as a short term solution took representatives by surprise.

European funds contrast dramatically with the modest prize money available at home and the option of not paying domestic cash to those teams who qualify for UEFA riches is also on the table in bigger picture debates.

However, the pressing need to thrash out a plan for the coming months by next week has brought forward ruminations on the concept. The overall uncertainty did not impress clubs that were expecting to leave the session with a proposal to debate.

Instead, they remain in limbo. The status of the First Division season is also in doubt, a call which would upset clubs who feel any return to play strategy should be two tiered.

Outgoing minister Ross mounted a strong defence of the new FAI hierarchy as they came under fresh pressure from Shelbourne's Andrew Doyle and Cabinteely's Larry Bass on governance issues.

This is tied in with concerns about the arrival of Barrett, Gary Owens and Niall Quinn and the new hierarchy's plans to push through governance reforms that go beyond what FAI members voted for. January's rescue deal with government led to a memorandum that changes the make-up of the board and Council. Ross said he was 'determined' to keep those clauses in the deal that is a condition for restoring funding. He said it was his 'ambition' to help the league through this challenging period.

Irish Independent