Longford Town FC manager Daire Doyle
The Football Association of Ireland and the National League Executive Committee have set the weekend beginning June 19 as a target date for the resumption of SSE Airtricity League football in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision was made at a tele-conference conducted from FAI HQ at Abbotstown on Friday, with all 19 League clubs represented. Both parties agreed to work together to play as many games as possible this season to minimise the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on attendances and sponsorship, and to consider the needs of clubs who have qualified for Europe.
The new plan is based around UEFA guidelines on a return to club action across Europe, as presented to the FAI last Tuesday. This decision will see the Premier Division and the First Division of the SSE Airtricity League resume on the weekend commencing Friday, June 19.
The Premier Division will finish on Friday, December 4 and the SSE Airtricity League season will close on Friday, December 11, with the second leg of the promotion/relegation play-off.
The Extra.ie FAI Cup Final will go ahead as scheduled on November 1, whilst the EA SPORTS Cup will be deferred.
The new schedule will require the cancellation of the last round of fixtures in the Premier Division, now reduced to 27 games in total. Changes to the dates for European club fixtures may force alterations to the new calendar of games as the season develops and this will be continually reviewed.
The First Division clubs will examine the possibility of fulfilling their 27-game schedule within this timeframe from June to December.
Welcoming the decision, FAI Competitions Director Fran Gavin said: “These are very difficult times for our clubs and players and the FAI remains committed to doing everything we can to get us all through this crisis together.
“There are no certainties around the COVID-19 pandemic but this decision offers us something to aim for. UEFA hope to have European football back up and running by early June at the latest so June 19 is a realistic target for us at this moment in time.
“Together with the clubs and the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland, we will work together towards this date and continue to liaise with the NLEC and the PFAI to protect our clubs and players as best we can.
“The FAI will continue to work with the Department of Health and the HSE to prioritise the health of our players, match officials, supporters and staff at this time and we will continue to follow all government guidelines.”