'We understand clubs would be in a position to rebound quickly' - Shane Ross rows back on earlier LOI comments
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross has issued a clarification following his comments regarding the League of Ireland at Wednesday's Oireachtas Committee hearing.
Ross had told the committee that his guess was that "if the FAI goes, the League of Ireland goes the same way" when asked about the league's future within the crisis-hit association. The comment received an angry reaction from many involved in the league with Sinn Fein TD and former Cork City chairman Jonathan O'Brien's comparing the FAI to "an absentee father didn't give an absolute bollocks about the LOI".
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Following the reaction, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport released a statement on Wednesday evening confirming that the league's clubs believe they could put the structures in place to reconstitute quickly and that the department would be meeting with UEFA and the League of Ireland in January.
"Arising out of a number of hypothetical questions raised at today’s meeting with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, Minister Shane Ross, T.D. and Minister of State Brendan Griffin, T.D. wish to clarify matters around the future of the League of Ireland in the event that the FAI’s financial situation should deteriorate further," it read.
"The Ministers are enormously concerned about the future of the League of Ireland, the 300 players, 300 support staff and its supporters. In light of this week’s revelations about the state of the FAI’s finances, a number of new scenarios have been raised.
"The Ministers understand that the insolvency of a national football federation in Europe would be an unprecedented situation and thus it is not completely clear what implications this would have for the relevant national league and consequently international teams.
"It is the understanding of the Department that if the national association failed, the national league would be impacted and would cease to exist in its current format. However, we understand that League of Ireland clubs would be in a position to rebound quickly and fulfil fixtures if such a failure were to occur in the FAI. In that case, it would avoid a scenario where national teams would be precluded from international competition, provided a replacement national federation would be in place.
"The Ministers are seeking to clarify this matter with UEFA in advance of their upcoming meeting next month. The Ministers recognise the need to have certainty around this point as a matter of urgency and hope that it will be possible for UEFA to provide certainty for the players and support staff employed by the League of Ireland clubs.
"The Ministers have asked Sport Ireland to arrange a meeting with representatives of the League of Ireland clubs and players in advance of the meeting with UEFA to hear their concerns and it is hoped that that meeting will be scheduled in the coming days."
A statement from the PCA – a grouping consisting of Premier Division clubs – welcomed the prospect of a meeting which they had requested prior to the Oireachtas hearing.