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Mixed views remain over League of Ireland return to play

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The FAI are set to reveal the financial package for the League of Ireland return to play plan.. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The FAI are set to reveal the financial package for the League of Ireland return to play plan.. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

The FAI are set to reveal the financial package for the League of Ireland return to play plan.. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Finn Harps admit that they will face financial and logistical problems if and when the League of Ireland resumes, behind closed doors, this year but the Donegal club say they will try and raise the finance needed for a resumption of the league without gate receipts.

But figures from Premier Division rivals Cork City and Waterford have expressed their concerns about a return to the field of play in 2020 in a behind-closed-doors scenario, with Cork City vowing "not to set foot on the field of play" until concerns are addressed.

The FAI are due to present to clubs on Thursday the details of their financial package which could see the SSE Airtricity League return in some form in 2020, albeit with a greatly reduced number of games and matches initially played behind closed doors, with the possibility of limited access for a certain amount of supporters later in the year.

The four clubs due to play in Europe this season (Bohemians, Derry City, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers) have expressed their desire to return to action as have Shelbourne, but the other five Premier Division clubs had been sceptical about the feasibility of behind-closed-doors games.

However, Finn Harps today said they would work with the FAI for a return.

"Although the pandemic has obviously meant football had to cease, club directors and volunteers have been hard at work throughout, working towards the day when football resumes. We have been growing the 500 Club, selling merchandise online, working on the pitch at Finn Park, continuing work with the department of sport with respect to the new stadium, engaging with sponsors and partners and planning for the logistics and arrangements necessary for the return of football," the club said in a statement.

"Obviously there is a way to go before we return to the field and the safety of all involved remains paramount. We know there will be hurdles to overcome financially, as the potential for football without fans removes the vast majority of our income streams, but also in terms of our infrastructure to deal with safely hosting matches post COVID19, whether that is in 2020 or for future seasons. Ultimately however, regardless of what form any return to football in 2020 may take, we are acutely aware that we will undoubtedly need to raise additional funding in order to participate and are actively considering plans for additional short and medium term fundraising initiatives.

"We will continue to engage positively with the FAI and will keep our supporters updated as the path to having football back at Finn Park becomes clearer," the Donegal club added.

But Cork City chairman Declan Carey said his club still have major concerns.

"We continue to work closely with the FAI and all other League of Ireland clubs on the possibility of the league resuming," he told the Evening Echo.

"In fairness, a lot of progress has been made in the last number of weeks by all parties involved. That being said, we want to ensure the safety of our players, staff and supporters as well as ensuring the financial state of the club is kept healthy. We won't step foot on the field of play unless those concerns are addressed and we have viable solutions."

Waterford FC striker Graham Cummins was also doubtful.

"I could come up with a plan - it's about implementing it," Cummins told the RTE Soccer Podcast.

"Until clubs are going to be guaranteed that money and they say, 'This will be in your bank account, don't worry about that. You play behind closed doors, we have that paid for you', I can't see a lot of clubs agreeing to go back because it doesn't make sense for them to."

Online Editors