€2m kick-start solidarity grant required from state or League of Ireland faces uncertain future
Sinn Féin has written to both the Minister for Sport Shane Ross and to the FAI seeking urgent meetings to discuss the ongoing impasse of if and when the 2020 League of Ireland season will resume.
Deputies Ruairí Ó Murchú, Chris Andrews and Darren O'Rourke are calling for a one-off €2million kick-start solidarity grant from the Department of Sport.
It is proposed that the €2m fund would be ring-fenced and paid directly to League of Ireland clubs to allow them to navigate through the current financial uncertainty, brought about by the Covid-19 crisis, and resume the 2020 season.
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Teachta Ó Murchú said:
"Having spoken to representatives of several League of Ireland clubs. The needs and financial positions of clubs differ, but there is a fear that this current impasse could see clubs go to the wall and set back Irish football for years.
"We have written to the Minister of Sport Shane Ross and separately to Gary Owens and Niall Quinn of the FAI with the intention of discussing the need for a state-led resolution to this crisis.
"The current board of the FAI has inherited a debt of over €60million. That is the legacy of John Delaney. But the future of Irish football cannot be allowed to suffer as a result.
"Irish football and the League of Ireland is viable and can prosper but at present it is stuck in limbo because of the Covid-19 crisis.
"Clubs need support in the interim period to ensure that the 2020 season can resume and to give clubs peace of mind and give the League of Ireland the best possible chance to thrive and reach its potential in the future.
"The Covid-19 crisis could not have come at a worse time for the current board of the FAI, who are trying to unravel and deal with the financial disarray they have inherited.
"As a result the Association does not have sufficient resources to support League of Ireland clubs in this time of crisis.
"It requires state intervention to navigate through this period. A kick-start solidarity grant of €2m to be distributed directly to clubs would do just that.
"It is important that this money is paid directly to the clubs and not absorbed into the black hole of the FAI's finances.
"Time is of the essence. The longer this impasse drags on, the harder it will be for league clubs to get back on their feet and Irish football will suffer. There needs to be some urgency from the government and FAI now. "
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay South Andrews said:
"We cannot turn our back on the current and future generations of Irish football.
"League of Ireland clubs are not just about their first teams, they are a focal point of social and community engagements, in many cases beacons of hope and inspiration in areas of social disadvantage.
"The contribution that League of Ireland clubs make to society should not be underestimated. They play a crucial role in the physical, mental and social well-being of our young people.
"They are the lifeblood of so many - players, volunteers and supporters - and they need a leg-up to allay financial concerns so that they can prosper again and look forward to the future with confidence.
"If there is not a financial support package from the state now, society as a whole, in particular the communities these clubs reach out to, could be counting a far greater cost in the years to come."