The FAI are bracing themselves for the financial hit of having no attendances at their three home games in the Nations League this autumn after a stark Covid-19 warning from a senior UEFA medical officer.
EFA had not confirmed if matches in the Euro 2020 play-offs or the Nations League would be played behind closed doors or open to limited crowds, but there was a hope that at least some supporters could be admitted. Leagues in Bulgaria, Serbia and Poland, among other nations, are being played with crowds present.
European football's governing body is due to advise next month if they plan to have the concluding games in this season's Champions League and Europa League, to be played as mini-tournaments in Portugal and Germany respectively in August, with crowds attending.
The FAI had not expected to host Finland in September in the Nations League, in what would be Stephen Kenny's first home game in charge of the Republic, in front of a full house at the 49,000-capacity Aviva Stadium.
However, they had hoped to have some paying punters, with the potential for bigger attendances at home games in October (Wales) and November (Bulgaria), depending on rules here about attendances at outdoor events being eased.
But Tim Meyer, head of UEFA’s medical commission, has issued a warning over stadiums being opened in 2020 due to concerns about Covid-19, and he says UEFA’s position would overrule decisions made by governments locally.
“There has been no verdict on spectator participation in the matches yet. However, it looks like there will be no competitions under UEFA’s patronage with people in the stands this year. It would be too much of a risk,” Meyer said. He saw a key difference between the planned European club matches in August and a series of international games in the rest of 2020.
“A final tournament that takes place in one country can be organised relatively well. But when all 55 UEFA nations start with international matches and the Nations League in September, there will be other levels of difficulty, such as national legislation or laboratory availability,” Meyer added.
Two of Ireland’s first three games this autumn are away, including the Euro 2020 play-off in Slovakia, but the three Nations League matches between September and November are key sources of revenue.
“We really need to be able to hold those matches,” the FAI’s interim CEO Gary Owens has previously said.
On the pitch last night, Dubliner Alan McCormack made it three promotions in three seasons when he was part of the Northampton Town team that beat Exeter City in the League Two play-off final. The 36-year-old had back-to-back promotions with Luton Town in the past two years.