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FAI provides cover as League of Ireland enters corridor of uncertainty

Additional funding to League of Ireland clubs has been confirmed by the government ahead of the upcoming season. David Doyle investigates how the FAI are playing a blinder in the post-Delaney era
A football taking in the sunset. Photo by David Doyle

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) will provide a €3.6 million funding support package for League of Ireland clubs that will be distributed to Premier and First division clubs.

The Minister of State for Sport, the Gaeltacht & Defence, Jack Chambers, confirmed that the government will provide additional support to kickstart the SSE Airtricity Premier and First Division in the upcoming League of Ireland season. 

The FAI have revealed a package of €3.6 million to clubs in the Premier and First Division, providing support for the clubs preparing for a season that will begin behind closed doors. The support package will be of benefit to clubs at the beginning of the season, particularly during the period of the absence of fans.

“Work is continuing on the safe return of grassroots football when the public health situation allows”

Jack Chambers

Chambers took to social media on confirming the funding would be allocated to the League of Ireland. ‘’Positive engagement with the FAI today, I made clear the Government’s support for the return of the League of Ireland’’, tweeted Deputy Chambers.

“I also provided assurances that we will provide additional supports in the period ahead. Work is continuing on the safe return of grassroots football when the public health situation allows,’’ Chambers added.

Each Premier Division club will receive a minimum support fund of €215,000, with an additional €135,000 to be added depending on their revenue streams generated from the 2019 season. However, it is thought that more funding may be required as crowds are not expected to return to the games until at least June 2021. First Division clubs will receive a minimum amount of €50,000 for the upcoming season.

Sponsorship

The FAI announced a new three-year sponsorship deal with Bank of Ireland, who will be associate sponsors of the League of Ireland and the FAI Cup. Bank of Ireland will launch a range of campaigns for the FAI, as they are reintroducing the community engagement programme, More Than A Club, after it was withdrawn in 2019 due to a loss of EU funding.

FAI Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Hill spoke at the official announcement of the deal saying: “This is another important day for the League of Ireland football and another significant boost for our domestic game”.

‘’The League of Ireland has captured the hearts and minds of Irish football for over 100 years and Bank of Ireland will now help us strengthen and improve the league and cup structures moving forward into the modern era,’’ Hill said.

When speaking on the reintroduction of the community engagement programmes, Hill was ‘particularly delighted’ that Bank of Ireland will be a supporter of the More Than A Club programme, which is specifically designed to improve the relationship between clubs and local communities around the country.

This positive sponsorship deal for Irish football follows weeks after the announcement of SSE Airtricity’s extension of its patronage to the Women’s National League. 

Having sponsored the men’s Premier Division for over ten years, the Irish energy company will now subsidise both the men and women’s leading divisions for the first time. 

“It is a ‘significant boost’ for the direction of the League of Ireland structure”

Jonathan Hill

Hill expressed his delight with the double sponsorship announcement, by saying that it is a ‘significant boost’ for the direction of the League of Ireland structure.

Clubs have made their return to training this week, as they prepare for the season, due to kick-off on 19 March. Fixtures for the Premier Division have been released, with the First Division and Women’s National League fixtures to be announced this week. Broadcasting deals for the League of Ireland’s upcoming season are yet to be confirmed.

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