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FAI planning major review of 'biased' Participation Agreement

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FAI interim CEO Gary Owen. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

FAI interim CEO Gary Owen. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

FAI interim CEO Gary Owen. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

The FAI are planning a revamp of the Club Licensing system after admitting the unpopular Participation Agreement, which clubs have to sign before entering the League of Ireland, is not fit for use, while FAI CEO Gary Owens has declared that the League of Ireland has "the worst facilities in Europe".

The SSE Airtricity League season is on hold like all soccer activity in the country due to Covid-19, and while the FAI say they are still aiming for June 19 as the resumption date, it's expected that Government restrictions will not have eased in time for that to happen.

It's possible that the league, where five series of games had been played, could resume in August or September and be completed before the end of the year, albeit with a shortened season, but clubs will also have to be prepared for no football being played in 2020.

The FAI remain in contact with clubs and the league's Steering Committee, which had been dormant since last year, will be revived, while the association also contacted clubs to alert them to changes at administration level before they can access state funding.

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Viability

The FAI have listed areas where clubs need to improve their standards - commercial viability, ability to compete at European level, player and spectator facilities, having women's and underage teams, and having a community presence - which would effectively replace the much-maligned Club Licensing system in place now.

Clubs have long been unhappy with many aspects of the Participation Agreement, punishments like Derry City being fined €5,000 in 2007 because there was a link to an opinion piece critical of the FAI on the club's official website, various managers being fined for critical comments, and Limerick FC being denied permission to host a potentially money-spinning friendly with Barcelona in 2010.

Following talks with the FAI in 2017, the Premier Clubs Alliance body said the agreement was "very one-sided". And now the FAI have agreed.

In a letter sent to clubs this week, FAI chief Owens said the Participation Agreement was "biased in favour of the FAI" and would be reviewed as part of a restructure of the League of Ireland, which would demand that clubs raise standards.

"Clubs who do not meet the criteria required will not be allocated funds, or allocation of funds will be made on a pro-rata basis," Owens wrote.

Meanwhile, Stephen Kenny has continued with the job of building his own backroom staff as long-serving kitmen with the senior squad, ex-international Mick Lawlor and Dick Redmond, have left their posts.

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