Alan Cawley: League Of Ireland matches behind closed doors a non runner

With no gate receipts, how are the clubs going to pay their bills?

SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, Oriel Park, Dundalk 30/10/2015 Dundalk vs Bray Wanderers Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny lifts the trophy Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

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Having League Of Ireland matches held behind closed doors is a total non runner. It just wouldn’t be feasible when you think of the cost involved. It’s not just about having matches with nobody there but the clubs are just so reliant on gate receipts. When you think of the cost of everything that comes with these matches, it’s just not possible. Things like medical and travel have to be paid for and with no gate receipts, how are the clubs going to pay for these things?

Clubs will struggle and there are clubs even struggling at the moment. Some  have laid their players off just to keep things afloat so that when things resume, they’ll be able to pick up where they’ve left off. Having matches behind closed doors is different in the likes of the Premier League in England with the money that’s involved in TV deals but it’s not a runner here.

As to when the league might resume, there was a plan put in place in a meeting between all the stakeholders a couple of weeks ago. They set a target for the end of June and at that time I thought it was a realistic target. As things have transpired since, I’m not so sure how realistic that target is now. The Minster for Health has said that we may not resume fully until a vaccine is available and then the GAA have come out and said that there’s unlikely to be any championship action until at least July.

That’s saying that you still can’t have mass gatherings until then. How can you envisage seeing a group of lads in a dressing room in such close proximity? It’s just hard to see how that’s going to take place before July at the earliest. It’s probably still a little bit early to call whether we can resume in June because every day, there’s a different statement being made. There’s still so much uncertainty and we’re all still so much in the dark. The experts are trying to pre-empt different scenarios but nobody really knows what’s going to happen. Like all other sports, people are speculating as to when we might start back and everybody is hoping that we can get a resumption as soon as possible. We just don’t know.

If things don’t start back in June, it’s not the end of the world either.

The one big thing that’s on our side is that we’re only five games into the season. If the resumption is prolonged until September, for example, you’d still have three or four months to play with. You could play throughout the winter, over Christmas and into January and February. You could finish the season then and that would definitely work if the season was reduced to a 27-game season, which they’ve already talked about. If things got even tighter, you could run the season off in 18 games.

That’s a possibility too but the one thing that the League Of Ireland have in their favour is that they’re not coming to the end of their season like in other countries. Having said that, it’s a tough time for the league and League Of Ireland clubs are fighting fires even when the season is happening, never mind something like this. It’s going to be really tough for them and that’s where you hope the FAI are going to help them out in some way.

Cork City and Sligo Rovers have already had to lay players off, which is something that they didn’t want to do. A lot of clubs will be able to honour their players’ contracts and then you have them taking advantage of the government’s scheme too, which they’re entitled to do. I’ve been talking to the likes of Jack Byrne, of Shamrock Rovers, and while he is delighted to be spending time with his family, he’s just desperate to get back playing football.

I spoke to Chris Shields of Dundalk as well and he said the same. The League Of Ireland clubs need major help and when things start to pick up, you would hope that they can pick up where they left off. That’s a major concern for all businesses and football is no different.

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