Ireland: FAI set for government talks to resume domestic football season

"5,000 could now be a level on which we could now resume the League of Ireland," says FAI interim CEO Gary Owens

Dundalk led Zenit 1-0 before eventually losing the game 2-1
Image: Dundalk are the current League of Ireland champions

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) is set for talks with the government over the possible resumption of the domestic top-flight season.

The Irish government set out new proposals to ban mass gatherings of more than 5,000 people until the end of August on Tuesday - meaning the League of Ireland, played in front of lower crowds - may be able to resume safely.

Gary Owens, FAI interim CEO, plans to seek clarity on what the latest ruling will mean for domestic football in Ireland as well as its potential effect on international football if the ban is extended into September.

"The obvious question is, can we hold the international matches in the autumn period?" He said. "We really need to be able to hold those matches and have mass gatherings in September.

"On the other hand, it gives us an opportunity with the League of Ireland clubs.

"That is a significant input now into the debate we will be having tomorrow with the National League Executive Committee because 5,000 could now be a level on which we could now resume the League of Ireland.

"That is a significant input and we need to take that into account, along with all the other factors which we are now analysing in advance of making a decision on the 5th of May when the Government will make their formal decision known."

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Owens added: "Like everything else, the devil is in the detail. We really need to understand what they mean by 5,000 in terms of mass gatherings and whether that applies in stadiums and what are the criteria we would have to comply with.

"We have been working with the medical team in UEFA who are helping us with guidelines but obviously, we need to talk to the HSE (Health Service Executive) and try and understand whether or not they would allow mass gatherings in football stadiums and if they do up to that level of 5,000, that could be a significant breakthrough for us."

Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final away to Slovakia is now likely to be played in October, with UEFA Nations League games to go ahead as planned in September.

"There has been a slight move on that," Owens said. "Originally, we thought it may well be November but it now looks like the semi-final is the preferred option in October.

"They don't want to have the semi-final and the final of the play-offs in the one month. It looks like the Nations League matches will be in September and October with the semi-final play-off in October and the final play-off in November."

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