Interim CEO Gary Owens says that the FAI plans to hold talks with the Government as soon as possible to discuss the implications for Irish football of the newly announced ban, applying until the end of August, of gatherings of over 5,000 people.
“This is breaking news this evening and in two respects for us,” Owens told FAI TV. “The obvious question is: can we hold international matches in the autumn period?
“We really need to be able to hold those matches and have mass gatherings in September. Hopefully, we can get to the end of August and that 5,000 limit will be increased.
“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 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.
“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 and try to 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.”
The SSE Airtricity League is currently scheduled to resume on June 19, with the Women’s National League set to kick-off a week later.
Owens said: “We will wait until we hear what the HSE and the Government have to say on May 5th. We are working through the National League Executive Committee and we are considering all the options.
“We have a number of scenarios which include putting it back, working behind closed doors (and) looking at restricted stadiums. So I think until we hear what the government have to say and what their advice is, we really can’t make a decision.
“I think the most important thing for us at the moment is to analyse all the options, look at all the scenarios, and be ready to make a decision that is appropriate.”
According to Owens, UEFA remains committed to dates in late July for Irish clubs to enter next season’s European club competitions.
“The latest is they are sticking with the dates. The Irish clubs look like they will be competing on the 28th of July so that is probably the most optimistic date. They have two options, one starting 28th July and one only a week later, so they are still committed to making sure the European qualifying competitions for our clubs take place in late July and early August.”