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FAI waiting to confirm level of government support as clubs set to receive financial proposal for new season

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Talks are ongoing between the FAI and League of Ireland club ahead of the new season. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Talks are ongoing between the FAI and League of Ireland club ahead of the new season. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Talks are ongoing between the FAI and League of Ireland club ahead of the new season. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The FAI will next week present League of Ireland clubs with a proposed financial package to start the 2021 season - but they will be unable to confirm the level of government support that is available.

Fixtures for the campaign ahead are due to be released on Monday, yet it's other facts and figures that clubs are eagerly awaiting as they plot the road ahead.

With Covid-19 restrictions guaranteeing closed doors football for the foreseeable future, it's acknowledged that support will be needed from above. A pot of around €3.3m was delivered to secure a return to play last August for an abridged end to 2020 business.

That amount included the waiving of affiliation and referee fees and the redistribution of other income but the FAI board also provided an underwrite in the anticipation of state relief that eventually materialised.

Estimates ranging from €6m to €9m have been floated for what would be required to run a full season under those conditions but the FAI are remaining tight lipped on what they will be able to put on the table.

However, the FAI's cash-strapped reality and the lack of official confirmation of government assistance means the offer is likely to be below some expectations and the Abbotstown hierarchy are prepared for a negative response from certain quarters.

Senior figures will argue that there is a limit to what they can provide in the current climate.

Once again, fees will be waived and the board will agree to underwrite a significant amount of money as they are confident that government support will come through with representations made by both the FAI and clubs to stress the importance of keeping the show on the road.

But clubs will effectively be urged to begin the season in the hope that the picture improves by the summer.

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"It may not be enough for clubs but nobody is trying to do them out of anything," said an FAI source. "This won't be straightforward."

While relations between the FAI and the relevant government departments are strong, there is an awareness that other major sporting organisations are in bother too and it may take a number of months before 2021 relief is finalised.

The FAI will also face scrutiny from other sections of the game which are completely out of action at the moment while 'elite' clubs do at least have a purpose.

The Premier Division campaign is due to begin on March 19 and the various participants have either begun pre-season training or will do so in the coming days.

Pandemic wage subsidies were vital in 2020 and they are set to be in play for the coming months while heavy restrictions remain, although the exact levels are another grey area and dependent on the broader public health picture.

Clubs submitting licencing applications were told to prepare for the eventuality where no fans can attend games in 2021.

The majority of sides have assembled squads on the basis that external help will be forthcoming whereas Waterford are an example of a club that is waiting on clarity on the FAI deal before finalising their plans.

Yet the FAI are optimistic that reaching collective agreement to proceed will be smoother this time around compared to the protracted discussions ahead of last summer's resumption.

At the end of that process, each Premier Division club received €191k with First Division sides awarded €67k as compensation for the loss of matchday revenue.

The WatchLOI streaming service is set to be retained but former interim CEO Gary Owens previously described the take-up as a 'disappointingly low' and it is being viewed more as an essential means of keeping fans involved as opposed to a revenue generating exercise.

There have been calls to expand it to factor in the First Division and the Women's National League which is now under the same sponsorship with SSE Airtricity.

Further sponsorship deals that will impact upon the league promotion are due in the coming weeks.

Applicants for First Division spots are waiting to find out if they have been successful with Shannonside-based Treaty United viewed as strong candidates to secure access to the second tier.


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