THE FAI have come up with a plan for how the League of Ireland can resume, but now they must try and implement it. That is easier said than done.
How many times have people said they are going to do something only to turn around and say it cannot be done?
League of Ireland fans would have seen the FAI’s statement last week as a glimmer of hope that the league can recommence but that’s all that it is, a glimmer of hope.
Cast our minds back to March 20 when the FAI announced plans to restart the league on June 19. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, this date is no longer feasible.
The FAI have to have a plan in place to show that there is some hope of football returning in this country soon but there are a lot of hurdles standing in the way before this can happen.
The FAI have neglected the league for many years but Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn seems to care more than others have in the past.
He has been very open and honest about how the league could resume and the obstacles in the way.
Quinn has been brave with his public speaking because if all this falls apart and fails – which it more than likely will - he will be the person people blame.
The plan will see Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians play a tournament to act as a pilot scheme for a return to football and European competition preparation.
Their players will undergo regular Covid-19 testing from May 26 and can resume training on June 8.
These are the clubs in favour of resuming football because they have the most to gain.
We have seen clubs in this league reap the rewards of what a run in Europe can do to the club financially and also what failure can bring.
All of these clubs would have budgeted with European football in mind.
Derry announced at the beginning of the season that they had increased their playing budget by 30%, with Europe in mind.
However, if, this tournament fails and players do contract the virus then does that put an end to Irish sides playing in Europe?
The Irish clubs will want to play some sort of football before their European adventure but if the country shows it is not capable of playing football on the island, will the Irish clubs be allowed play in Europe or will UEFA simply give them some sort of compensation package – which might happen anyway.
It’s easy for the FAI to convince the teams in Europe to resume football but convincing the other clubs in the league is the difficult task.
Quinn is confident that the FAI have the funds that can compensate clubs for the loss of revenue for games behind closed doors but those funds don’t include players wages, which clubs are going to want help with as well.
The League of Ireland isn’t like others in Europe. It needs every club to agree and teams won’t be bullied into submission by the so-called ‘bigger clubs’.
Each club have different finances and depend on their supporters to help the club survive.
Some clubs don’t have the luxury of knowing that if things do go wrong that they have a wealthy owner that can bail them out.
We have seen too many clubs in this country go bust and teams like Sligo Rovers and Waterford aren’t going to agree to put the future of their club at risk just so Rovers or Dundalk can benefit.
There has been the suggestion that the FAI propose that the players take pay cuts.
Rovers players have already agreed to a pay cut off 25% during the suspension of the league.
The Hoops players, along with Dundalk, are the best paid in the league and can afford to take a decrease in their wage but players at other clubs will be counting on every penny they were promised when they signed their contract and wouldn’t be quick to make such an agreement.
It’s easier for the Rovers players to accept a wage cut when they aren’t doing anything to earn their money but were football to resume, would they be happy to continue with a wage decrease, especially with the added risk to their health?
In a recent survey, 87% of players indicated that they would be happy to return to training and play matches.
The issue then arises with the 13% that aren’t happy. Will they lose their contracts because they refused to play over concerns for their safety?
Players have every right to refuse to play if it’s not safe to do so and still expect to be paid.
Then, some of those 87% players, will change their minds when they see that they can still have their contracts honoured without having to play.
The majority of clubs are against the resumption of the league under any current proposals.
The FAI know that unless they are willing to cover all costs, clubs aren’t going to agree to the conclusion of the season.
The plan shows, that the FAI are at least for once trying but the league is no closer to resuming now than it was when it was suspended in March.