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Clubs wait on clarity from FAI over state assistance as LOI return draws close

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Niall Quinn will throw his hat into the ring tomorrow. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Niall Quinn will throw his hat into the ring tomorrow. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Niall Quinn will throw his hat into the ring tomorrow. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/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 with a handful of sides, 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 football can tap into that.

There was a lot going on in Abbotstown in the tail end of last week with a new executive structure revealed and applications sought internally for the post of League of Ireland 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 (above) will throw his hat into the ring tomorrow with the timeline laid out to staff suggesting it could all play out this week.

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, and if the FAI Cup needed to be shelved to cut costs.

The cup should be safe now, but 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. 

There are sides in the relegation picture that are open to the idea of a longer season in theory but would need to be sold on the financial angle. 

The likely consensus view, barring a dramatic injection of fresh cash, 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 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, a fresh phase in a saga which has already had plenty of twists and turns. Expect a few more.

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