The government has announced a funding package of €70 million for the Irish sports sector to cover the financial hit brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
The FAI, the GAA and the IRFU are the biggest recipients with €40 million set to be split between them – a package which will be of particular assistance to the cash-strapped FAI.
The €40 million will be divided between the three organisations on a case-by-case basis and will, according to the announcement, be based on each body’s “specific needs with regard to solvency and continued existence.”
Given that the FAI were already in financial trouble before the pandemic, they will be hopeful of receiving a significant boost.
In an interview with The Irish Times on Friday, interim CEO Gary Owens said that the crisis would likely cost the association €6 million while discussions are still ongoing with Airtricity League clubs in the hope of providing a financial package to get the domestic season back underway.
This newly announced government fund could potentially expediate the resumption of the domestic league after talks progressed this week with Premier Division clubs now in line for payments around €200,000 apiece – a significant increase on what was first offered and largely down to the fact that it is now not expected that testing will be required for games staged in clubs’ own stadiums.
On Friday the FAI also announced that, in line with the new government announcements, Airtricity League and Women’s National League clubs can return to full contact training from June 29th and play friendlies against amateur teams from July 11th.
The testing regime at the four clubs preparing for Champions League and Europa League qualifying – Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City – will also cease after returning negative results from all six rounds of testing conducted over the last four weeks.
For the IRFU – whose annual income relies heavily on full Avivia Stadiums for Ireland internationals – the government fund will also help to cushion the impact of the current crisis with CEO Philip Browne welcoming the announcement on Friday by saying that “since the closedown of the country in March Irish Rugby’s income has effectively fallen off a cliff and while we have moved quickly to significantly reduce our costs, huge financial pressure will remain our reality until we return to a time when we can welcome supporters back to full stadia across our professional game.”
The GAA also welcomed the news and said that meetings will take place over the weekend with a view advancing plans for a return to activity after the government announced that all sport can restart from June 29th under the accelerated Covid-19 exit plan.
Also included in the fund is an extra €10 million for smaller national governing bodies in need of assistance to avoid closing, €15 million for struggling sports clubs and a final €5 million for a sports restart and renewal programme.