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Weekend League of Ireland schedule to go ahead but FAI bracing itself for coronavirus shutdown

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Football Association of Ireland offices in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Football Association of Ireland offices in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Football Association of Ireland offices in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

League of Ireland fixtures are set to go ahead this weekend but clubs and the FAI are bracing themselves for the prospect of a COVID-19 related shutdown when those games are out of the way.

A taskforce has been established to deal with the impact of the coronavirus with representatives of the FAI, the League of Ireland clubs and players union PFAI set to meet on a daily basis following initial talks today.

They are looking at contingency plans to deal with the impact of the pandemic on their sport, especially if bans on cultural and sporting gatherings are introduced.

League of Ireland clubs are heavily reliant on gate income and fear the impact of closed doors matches as a solution to the problem.

Government officials have indicated that this weekend's scheduled round of matches will go ahead as planned.

But there is no certainty about what will happen thereafter and it is likely that financial assistance will be sought from UEFA and government in the event of games proceeding behind closed doors.

It's estimated that professional player wages across both divisions would come in at around €300k per month.

Clubs are reluctant to commit to that transition without financial guarantees.

They would all have had their budgets passed by the FAI with gate income projections factored into the equation.

FAI Finance Director Alex O'Connell has been tasked with doing a club by club breakdown on the reliance on gate receipts.

Another issue for League of Ireland clubs is the issue of training on a day to day basis.

Teams that train in communal facilities such as public gyms are being advised to minimise contact with large groups of people and may therefore have to relocate to their own stadiums for this purpose.

Clubs have already started to act on this advice, which has been mirrored in other codes with Munster Rugby moving from UL to Thomond Park.

An FAI statement said:

"A steering group was established at today’s meeting and will monitor developments on a daily basis with the Association now working closely with the NLEC and the PFAI to examine the potential impact of a sporting shutdown.

"The FAI will coordinate this work and will present its findings to government and UEFA in relation to the financial implications for SSE Airtricity League clubs and players along with proposals on how best the Irish football industry can be protected."

In the statement, an FAI spokesman was quoted as saying:

"Today’s meeting was a productive one and allowed us all to focus on the situation facing our National League clubs and players. We discussed at length our serious concerns around Covid-19 and began to develop a contingency plan to help our clubs during this potentially difficult time.

"We are currently gathering all financial data and working with the clubs and the players on the financial implications they face. Once we have a true understanding of this, we will be approaching Government and UEFA on behalf of the clubs to seek their support."

A PFAI statement added that the parties "will work together to ensure all parties can get through this difficult period with minimal impact to all."

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