Stephen Doyle
Stephen Doyle

17.12 30 Jun 2020


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FAI interim deputy CEO Niall Quinn has welcomed the decision of the National League Executive Committee (NLEC) over the return of the SSE Airtricity League.

Following a vote of the Premier Division and First Division clubs this morning, the NLEC opted to play a truncated 18-game season with promotion and relegation to be determined as normal.

Quinn has been heavily involved with discussions over the resumption of the season, which have dragged on for weeks, but he feels that today's announcement provides much-needed clarity to all stakeholders.

"The NLEC decided to go with what was known as Option One which is effectively the least disruptive offering that was on the table," Quinn told FAI TV.

"What it means for football is that there is clarity in the air now and we know a lot more about what resuming is going to look like.

"That's great, to get that clarity was important.

"The NLEC looked at all options and over the last week or ten days, since we knew financially that it was going to be palatable for the clubs to come back, it was about overcoming some other complex issues like promotion/relegation and the FAI Cup interest as well.

"There's been a number of ongoing things happening, there's been good dialogue with clubs, everybody's opinion has been taken into account at this point.

"From my observations, the NLEC did a really good job in looking at all avenues of possibility and today the decision, which still has to be ratified by the FAI board, gives that nice view of what the fixture list looks like now.

"We can start on the 31 July, the bank holiday weekend and it feels closer, definitely, after that announcement from the NLEC today that we're heading back and it feels good."

One of the major sticking points during the discussions was the issue of relegation from the Premier Division and promotion from the second tier with some clubs expressing desire for a one-up, one-down format.

Quinn admitted that not every club will be happy.

"At the top everything is as is and the champions will be the ones who finish first and they'll qualify for the Champions League," explained Quinn.

"The other European qualifiers will qualify as normal.

"Down at the bottom, it's the exact same as was planned initially. There will be a relegation for the team that finishes tenth and last in the Premier League [sic] and they'll be replaced the champions of the First Division next season.

"The team who finish second last, in ninth, will end up in a shoot-out with the winners from the play-off of spots second, third, fourth and fifth in the First Division.

"So it's quite exciting that that is in the air.

"While it's not entirely perfect for where all of the clubs wanted to be after the five matches, I think the clarity of it all means we can now kick on and concentrate on the football side of it and looking forward to those games.

"It will be quite a finish to the season. So that's good. To be talking this way, feels pretty good."

Quinn also confirmed that this year's FAI Cup will go ahead this year although how and when it will be run off remains unclear.

"We've looked at how we can make that part of the agenda so that clubs aren't being stretched too far in terms of the length of season and their exposure to the costs for prolonged periods of time," said Quinn.

"What we have discussed at this point is that the eight quarter-finalists would actually complete the FAI Cup after the league season has ended and that they will be rewarded for getting to that point.

"That will help them financially to get the games played for the following two or three weeks after the season ends."


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