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Players want FAI to follow GAA lead and decide a date

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FEARS: Cabinteely footballer Kevin Knight during a training session at Killiney Strand in Dublin while adhering to the guidelines of social distancing set down by the Health Service Executive. Photo: SPORTSFILE

FEARS: Cabinteely footballer Kevin Knight during a training session at Killiney Strand in Dublin while adhering to the guidelines of social distancing set down by the Health Service Executive. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

FEARS: Cabinteely footballer Kevin Knight during a training session at Killiney Strand in Dublin while adhering to the guidelines of social distancing set down by the Health Service Executive. Photo: SPORTSFILE

League of Ireland players will today ask the FAI to end any doubts over a possible return to football action and follow the GAA's example by setting a date so players and staff can plan to resume the season.

And there are new concerns over the likelihood of the four Irish clubs being able to play in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League this summer. UEFA may severely curtail, or simply drop, the rounds before the group stage.

Even if compensation was offered in return for the qualifying rounds being played, there would be a significant shortfall for the four Irish entrants, especially Dundalk.

UEFA's Executive Committee will make a decision in 15 days' time, as they try to finish this season's competitions while also planning for the 2020/21 tournaments.

But Champions League entrants Dundalk, as well as the Europa League trio of Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City, may find themselves forced to play one-off ties in Europe, instead of two-legged affairs, or even have those preliminary rounds scrapped.

The FAI will attempt to update club reps on the domestic outlook at a meeting this morning of the Steering Committee while the FAI, along with the GAA and IRFU, will get clarity from the Government on Friday.

But the PFAI, the body which represents League of Ireland players, says their members have expressed their frustration with the absence of a specific date.

"The FAI need to hear from the Government on Friday on what the Government's view is, but the players here need to know," says Stephen McGuinness, General Secretary of the PFAI.

"May 18th is there as one date but players are still unsure what that means, if they can return to training in small groups or not at all.

"But how many weeks will there be between May 18th and the season coming back? There has been mention of a July tournament for the four clubs competing in Europe, some people have fixed on September 1st for matches but we don't know.

"The FAI have said they will update us on Friday but the feedback from our members is that they can't wait beyond Friday, they need to know,

"The GAA, rightly or wrongly, have made their decision of no action until October, we still don't have that clarity in the League of Ireland.

"If they are aiming for September 1st to come back that's fine, but the players need to be told that, they need direction.

They are training on their own but they don't know what they are training for. It's only reasonable for them to ask what direction we are going in, as the GAA have done."

Cabinteely man Kevin Knight fears that players from the First Division have been left out of the debate.

"The whole First Division has been forgotten about," he says. "It's all the League of Ireland, no matter what the division is."