PFAI chief Stephen McGuinness believes that FIFA have a moral obligation to help struggling leagues such as the League of Ireland given their current predicament.
World football’s governing body has hinted that a relief package will be available to countries where the game has been severely affected by the pandemic and the FAI have written to the authorities to outline the situation in Ireland where clubs are reluctant to return to play behind closed doors because they don’t believe it’s financially viable.
As it stands, the FAI are dependent on government support in the form of the continued wage subsidy and are also trying to put together other elements of a compensation package but they will not be able to improve terms without external help and McGuinness feels that FIFA should be stepping in given reports they have cash reserves of around €2.3 billion.
Additional FIFA aid beyond the advance of €450,000 in scheduled funding has been floated throughout the Covid-19 crisis yet there is no certainty on what’s available and – more pertinently – when it will actually be available.
McGuinness thinks it would help the reputation of football’s most powerful body to step in and save the day.
“We’ve been in contact with FIFPRO, the world players union, who have been lobbying with FIFA for leagues of similar size of ourselves to return,” McGuinness told Off The Ball AM. “There’s distress everywhere.
“They’ve had such controversy during Sepp Blatter’s time, that here’s a time that FIFA can really stand up and show that they care about football right across Europe and right across the world.
“Morally I think they have a responsibility to assist the game right across the world and they’ve a huge opportunity to do it now.
“There’s a lot of people who would look at FIFA and wonder what does the organisation do because the game is on its’ knees in some countries.
“You look at their cash reserves and you would expect them at some stage to be able to assist at grassroots and elite level and I’d be hopeful that will come.”
McGuinness has reiterated comments from union solicitor Stuart Gilhooly that trouble could lie ahead if clubs opt against returning this year.
He feels that the desire is there across the league for a comeback and appreciates that club officials are worried about the risk in returning without sufficient financial guarantees.
However, he has again warned that cancelling the season would present issues with player contracts that could place clubs under severe pressure.
“The elephant in the room is the player contracts,” he said. “Contracts have to be honoured and that’s something we all don’t want to find ourselves facing.”
“There is going to be a little bit of a risk for everybody coming back and from a PFAI point of view we are very much open to discussing whatever it takes.
“There’s a number of clubs that haven’t paid players for 10-12 weeks now and when that bill falls due, I think there’s going to be huge difficulty in how that’s going to be managed.
“If you get back to play, there’s some chance of paying the bills. Nobody wants to see any club to go to the wall but there is potential that if contracts aren’t honoured, that’s the only route open.
“That’s why we are so keen to work with the clubs to ensure we don’t get to the scenario.
“I understand that no director wants to trade recklessly and come back if it isn’t financially viable but players do have contracts to be honoured. It’s a difficult situation for everybody.
“It would be catastrophic for the league if we didn’t get back. There are lots of top young players in the league, we’ve seen that with the U21 international team. To have them lose a season of their careers (should be avoided) when their career is short as it is.”