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FAI holds out the hope of better funding in bid to get clubs onside

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FAI interim CEO Gary Owens believes clubs can benefit from Association’s involvement in the League of Ireland when football eventually can return. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

FAI interim CEO Gary Owens believes clubs can benefit from Association’s involvement in the League of Ireland when football eventually can return. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

FAI interim CEO Gary Owens believes clubs can benefit from Association’s involvement in the League of Ireland when football eventually can return. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The new FAI hierarchy believe that the Association should retain a key role in the League of Ireland rather than cutting it loose.

Interim FAI CEO Gary Owens has indicated to clubs that the FAI feel there will be more funding available through Government and UEFA streams - if Abbotstown continues to oversee the recommended structural changes.

Central to that will be the FAI recommendation that clubs would buy into criteria and principles - including a renewed commitment to underage structures, women's football and facilities meeting European standards.

Prior to the collapse of John Delaney's regime, the establishment of a company run by the FAI and clubs was on the agenda, but financial concerns prompted doubts about the governing body's desire to fund new projects.

As the FAI entered a year of turmoil, a range of options were explored, with the idea of an all-island league - driven by Kerry businessman Kieran Lucid - gaining favour. Leading clubs also held talks about going it alone.

The cross-border concept is in limbo at the moment with uncertainty hanging over the football world on account of the Covid-19 crisis.

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FAI interim CEO Gary Owens. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

FAI interim CEO Gary Owens. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

FAI interim CEO Gary Owens. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Reformed

But a reformed FAI board is using the shutdown to evaluate where things stand with the domestic game.

It's understood that Dutch business and sports company, Hypercube, may be consulted to see if its work on helping Lucid bring forward his vision has any relevance for the League of Ireland as a stand-alone entity.

The FAI yesterday announced that a working group set up last year in conjunction with the National League Executive Committee is being re-established, with the Association itself now taking an active role in talks along with representatives of eight clubs.

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Significant decisions will boil down to the different priorities of clubs in the two divisions, amid reports that First Division clubs have expressed concerns about the cost and logistics of running sides in the U-13 and U-15 divisions that were introduced to supplement the existing U-17 and U-19 level.

The FAI are ready to tell clubs that participation in these leagues is crucial. It will also be encouraging the established clubs to develop their women's section if they don't already have one.

Having all the constituent parts of the game under the one umbrella is viewed as useful for seeking funding streams and may also help from a sponsorship perspective, with the search for the title sponsor a key priority as SSE Airtricity exit.

It's understood that the FAI outlined the principles that will govern their strategy in an email to Premier Division clubs, in response to correspondence from their representatives the Premier Clubs Association (PCA)

The working group features sides from both divisions with Bray Wanderers, Cork City, Derry City, Drogheda United, Dundalk, Galway United, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers represented.

In an FAI statement, National League Executive chair Noel Byrne from Shamrock Rovers said that the Abbotstown participation 'signifies the association's intent to work with the clubs on a brighter future for Irish football.'

The FAI's interim deputy CEO, Niall Quinn, outlined that working together in the coming months can help Irish football to overcame the challenges faced by the shutdown.

"So much is possible now for our game as the Working Group puts together a road map for the future that we can present to all 19 League clubs with confidence and excitement," said Quinn. "The clubs have given the Working Group a mandate to investigate all possibilities.

"We look forward to working with the clubs and engaging with UEFA, FIFA, Government, players and sponsors to offer the best future possible for our League and our players."

Irish Independent