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Stream plan buffering: FIFA grants could help get LOI back in action but doubts over plan's viability

 

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NO GOOD: St Patrick’s Athletic don’t see live streaming games as a viable option. Photo: SPORTSFILE

NO GOOD: St Patrick’s Athletic don’t see live streaming games as a viable option. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

NO GOOD: St Patrick’s Athletic don’t see live streaming games as a viable option. Photo: SPORTSFILE

The FAI will this week ask League of Ireland clubs to consider playing matches behind closed doors, those games being streamed live, as a last resort for getting football action back again.

But Finn Harps have joined St Patrick's Athletic in their stance on the matter and have became the latest top-flight club to rule out the idea of matches being played without fans present, with a senior club official at Harps saying it was a "non-runner".

Finance is key now, more than ever, for the FAI.

They have learned that they will not benefit from a €4.3m cash allocation, announced yesterday by UEFA to all national associations, to help them cope with the financial burden of the Covid-19 crisis, as the money had already been drawn down in advance by the previous board of the FAI.

UEFA are paying out the €4.3m to each national association from a €236.5m HatTrick fund "to support its member associations at this difficult time" but as the FAI had already been given the money in advance, there's no windfall to help ease the exhaustive financial pain caused by Covid-19.

Football at all levels is off, and while senior international matches are the FAI's cash cow (and there's no guarantee Stephen Kenny's side can host Finland in September as planned), the lack of League of Ireland activity is a concern.

The FAI had last week asked all clubs to prepare a report of what the financial impact would be of playing games behind closed doors in the event that restrictions were lifted to allow football return, but with no crowds present.

Individual clubs submitted those reports yesterday and the FAI will come up with a proposal before the end of the week which would plan for matches behind closed doors, being streamed online.

But that's conditional on the Government's stance on field sports being allowed to resume at all, many within the game fearing that soccer is a write-off for 2020.

Some clubs says they see merit in the streaming idea but the financial costs of improving health and safety standards for players and staff at stadiums, installation of equipment for streaming, provision of testing facilities, the loss of income from match-day attendances and doubts over the numbers who would be willing to pay for a live stream have led to scepticism.

"We're not opposed to the idea but we've looked at the costs and they would be very substantial," one club official said.

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ISSUES: There’s no guarantee Stephen Kenny’s side can host Finland in September as planned and the lack of LOI activity is another concern for the FAI. Photo: SPORTSFILE

ISSUES: There’s no guarantee Stephen Kenny’s side can host Finland in September as planned and the lack of LOI activity is another concern for the FAI. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

ISSUES: There’s no guarantee Stephen Kenny’s side can host Finland in September as planned and the lack of LOI activity is another concern for the FAI. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Another club source said: "We'd have to offer streaming free of charge to our season ticket holders and outside of them, I can't see there being the demand, it's an idea worth looking at but it's not feasible".

Football's Covid-19 steering committee, involving officials from the FAI, the clubs and the PFAI will meet today and be updated, with the FAI asking clubs to keep an open mind on running matches behind closed doors, if permitted.

"If we do get football back, and that's a big if, it could be a choice between behind closed doors and nothing," one source said. "If it's safe medically and viable financially, it should be looked at."

Last week, St Patrick's Athletic said that playing games behind closed doors was a non-runner and Finn Harps have now expressed the same belief. "For ourselves, and I am sure Sligo Rovers are the same, we can't see the behind closed doors option as a runner at all," Harps director Paul McLoone told Ocean FM.

"Financially, we just couldn't countenance behind closed doors. You might be able to play a game but the club would fold.

"You'd have to get significant inducements from the FAI and they have enough difficulties themselves."

Extra FIFA funding could allow the FAI to get games on, if not the gates open for fans, but nothing will happen until the Government update the nation on Friday.