The tortured saga that is the restart of the League of Ireland took another twist last night.
THE SAGA THAT has become of efforts to restart the League of Ireland season took another twist last night as the FAI issued a statement in response to an explosive letter by St Pat’s Chairman Garret Kelleher.
RTÉ and the Irish Sun reported last night that Kelleher sent a letter to the FAI board members from League of Ireland backgrounds – Paul Cooke, Martin Heraghty and Dick Shakespeare – asking them to intervene in discussions to restart the domestic season, now entering its fourth month of hiatus.
The restart efforts are being led by Interim CEO Gary Owens and his interim deputy Niall Quinn, but Kelleher wrote the pair have “failed and failed badly” in their efforts to restart the season.
In Kelleher’s view, the sticking point is the pair’s failure to find enough money to convince the clubs it’s worth restarting the season, given clubs will lose their gate receipts with games set for neutral venues behind closed doors.
In his letter, Kelleher said Owens and Quinn had spoken to clubs of the “high probability” of putting together a financial package including income from streaming games along with funding from Fifa, Uefa, the government and other third parties, but says, to date “zero has been delivered.”
“I am of the firm view that, albeit their intentions may be well-meaning and they may have spent a considerable amount of time and effort over the last six months, Gary and Niall have failed and failed badly”, wrote Kelleher.
He asked Cooke, Heraghty, and Shakespeare to intervene on the issue in the hope they will be able to restart the season.
In reply, the FAI issued a statement late last night standing by Quinn and Owens.
“The Board of the Football Association of Ireland notes the correspondence received from Garrett Kelleher this evening”, read the statement.
“The FAI has engaged in intensive and ongoing consultations with relevant stakeholders, including all SSE Airtricity League clubs, with regard to the resumption of the League.
“The Board is fully supportive of the efforts being made by the Executive team in this regard and we will continue to support these endeavors.”
In better news for the FAI, the nine League of Ireland first division clubs yesterday issued statements describing their meeting with Quinn and Owens as “very positive”, and say they are “increasingly positive” about a return to competitive football, perhaps in August.
The Premier Division is a much bigger headache for the FAI at the moment, with Derry City yesterday releasing a statement finding fault with the money that is on the table, saying their proposed slice of the pie isn’t large enough given they are one of three clubs who have retained players and staff on full pay during the Covid-19 shutdown.
Clubs will meet with the FAI again tomorrow.