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FAI confirm four team pilot tournament in roadmap for return as LOI players and staff set to be asked to take pay cuts

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Premier Division players, from left, Conor Davis of Cork City, Ciaran Kilduff of Shelbourne, Dave Webster of Finn Harps, Ian Bermingham of St Patrick's Athletic, Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers, FAI Interim Deputy Chief Executive Niall Quinn, Darragh Leahy of Dundalk, David Cawley of Sligo Rovers, Robbie McCourt of Waterford, Conor Clifford of Derry City and Danny Grant of Bohemians during the launch of the 2020 SSE Airtricity League season. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Premier Division players, from left, Conor Davis of Cork City, Ciaran Kilduff of Shelbourne, Dave Webster of Finn Harps, Ian Bermingham of St Patrick's Athletic, Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers, FAI Interim Deputy Chief Executive Niall Quinn, Darragh Leahy of Dundalk, David Cawley of Sligo Rovers, Robbie McCourt of Waterford, Conor Clifford of Derry City and Danny Grant of Bohemians during the launch of the 2020 SSE Airtricity League season. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Premier Division players, from left, Conor Davis of Cork City, Ciaran Kilduff of Shelbourne, Dave Webster of Finn Harps, Ian Bermingham of St Patrick's Athletic, Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers, FAI Interim Deputy Chief Executive Niall Quinn, Darragh Leahy of Dundalk, David Cawley of Sligo Rovers, Robbie McCourt of Waterford, Conor Clifford of Derry City and Danny Grant of Bohemians during the launch of the 2020 SSE Airtricity League season. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The FAI are set to ask League of Ireland players and staff if they are willing to take a collective pay cut in order to convince clubs to return to football.

Abbotstown officials are prepared to go down that route as part of their attempts to save the 2020 season if the health authorities give the all-clear for a resumption from August.

Players haven't been consulted about the possibility given that a range of options are being explored, but it's understood their representatives would be open to a discussion on the matter - but only if it was the last obstacle to football returning. However, it would be a challenge to sell the concept to those who have already suffered cuts at their clubs.

The FAI have work to do to reach that point after presenting provisional details of costs and compensation to clubs on Thursday.

Ultimately, it involves the FAI covering medical costs and the production for streaming all remaining games – with the combined price estimated at around €1.6m – and also distributing compensation in the region of €1.1m to be divided amongst the 19 clubs to offset the loss of income.

Clubs were hoping for a larger guaranteed pot on the basis of projections they submitted around expected earnings if it was business as usual. The FAI would contend that the Covid-19 crisis will hurt clubs whatever option they choose as scrapping the season would leave them open to owing money to players – the primary expense.

Therefore, the hope is that State guarantees on the retention of wage support will cover 70 per cent of pay packets for the duration of the season, and agreements with players and staff could bring wage bills down by up to 15 per cent, leaving most clubs paying 15 per cent of the budgeted salaries.

FAI officials remain in talks with potential streaming partners and have argued to clubs that revenue from that source could further eat into the financial deficit.

It’s believed that companies canvassed by the FAI are looking to spend on marketing to attract customers rather than paying a fixed amount whereas league officials would prefer more certainty.

Therefore, the FAI are looking at further lowering fixed costs, feeling that every effort should be made to avoid a lengthy stoppage with clarity needed before the month is out.

Pay talks would be complicated by the fact that players who have been laid off by clubs consider that a wage deferral and would want that issue resolved before thrashing out another agreement.

It would present case-by-case challenges before a collective deal could be thrashed out.

Premier clubs would also have to agree on the length of a restarted season. With five games already played, the options are to play two rounds (13 more games for 18 in total) or three rounds (22 more games). That would impact on streaming potential.

On Friday night, the FAI confirmed that the four European representatives will be used in a pilot scheme, likely to be played at the Aviva Stadium, for a return to football at all levels. The FAI’s Dr Alan Byrne has been appointed to Sport Ireland’s Advisory Group and is advising that Dundalk, Bohemians, Derry and Shamrock Rovers can return to collective training on June 8 with a view to playing their tournament from July 20. They will undergo regular Covid-19 testing from May 26.

Other League of Ireland clubs will not be allowed to train together until June 29 while all other affiliates must wait until July 20 to begin returning to training plans with the exception of Women’s National League champions Peamount United pending the confirmation of their Champions League schedule.

A statement issued by the Association contained the below guidelines.

SSE AIRTRICITY LEAGUE

  • The cessation of all football under the jurisdiction of the FAI is extended to July 20th with the exception of SSE Airtricity League clubs and UEFA Women’s Champion’s League representatives, Peamount United.
  • All clubs are advised not to facilitate any organized training, including in groups of up to four, under Phase One of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business.
  • Four SSE Airtricity League clubs – Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians - will be invited to return to training initially followed by a return to playing, in a behind closed doors tournament, as part of a pilot programme for a return to football for everyone.
  • Players and staff from the four invited SSE Airtricity League clubs will undergo regular COVID-19 testing from May 26.
  • The four invited SSE Airtricity League clubs can return to collective training on June 8th.
  • These four clubs will participate in a four-team tournament at a neutral venue, ahead of their European Club competition games in late July/ early August.
  • The four-team tournament will provide all stakeholders with an opportunity to learn in the current environment from these games, thus providing a safer template for SSE Airtricity League, International games and all football going forward
  • All other SSE Airtricity League squads can return to collective training on June 29th under Phase Three of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business, with players and staff undergoing regular COVID-19 testing.
  • The FAI Medical Team will provide a detailed and transparent analysis of the testing results to stakeholders, Government agencies and UEFA on an ongoing basis.

WOMEN’S NATIONAL LEAGUE, ADULT AMATEUR, UNDERAGE AND ALL OTHER AFFILIATED FOOTBALL

  • All clubs are advised not to facilitate any organized training, including in groups of up to four, under Phase One of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business.
  • The FAI Steering Group will monitor the pilot programme for the four invited SSE Airtricity League clubs, to be launched on June 8th, and will use all information gathered in the preparation of a protocol document for a return for all adult amateur and underage football.
  • The cessation of all football activities under the jurisdiction of the FAI is extended to July 20th for all affiliates, with the exception of SSE Airtricity League clubs and UEFA Women’s Champions League representatives, Peamount United.
  • A decision on Peamount United’s return to training will be made once dates are known for the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
  • Under Phase Four of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business, all adult amateur and underage clubs can begin their return to training programmes from July 20, subject to FAI protocols to be agreed with Government agencies.
  • Under Phase Five of the Government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business, all adult amateur and underage clubs can return to full collective training from August 10.
  • All adult amateur and underage clubs can return to playing from August 28.
  • A pilot tournament for the Women’s National League, including Peamount United, will be launched once dates are known for the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
  • A pilot programme for adult amateur and underage football will be launched on August 14 and run until August 28.
  • Regional, provincial and national competitions in season 2019/20 can return from August 28 with FAI approval.
  • Winter Leagues wishing to complete their 2019/20 season will be given the option of applying to the FAI, via their affiliates, for an extension to their season until October 11.
  • Applications from Winter Leagues looking to complete the 2019/20 season must be made to the FAI by June 15 with details to be forwarded to affiliates from the Steering Group by May 22.
  • Winter Leagues not wishing to complete their 2019/20 season can start their new 2020/21 season on October 16.
  • 2020 Summer Leagues can return on August 28 and will be provided with support to create a shortened schedule to run up to December 13.
  • All decisions around a return to collective training and playing for all adult amateur and underage football, will be based on the health and safety of all players, coaches, match officials, administrators and club volunteers.
  • All decisions will be subject to change on the advice of Government agencies, UEFA and the FAI Medical Team, led by Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne.

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