Finn Harps FC welcomes the Government’s announcement of the potential to resume activities in July/August but recognizes that restrictions with respect to mass gatherings will still be in place.
We are encouraged by the initiative of the FAI to examine possible scenarios for a potential return to League of Ireland football, and we are keenly aware of how much our players and supporters are missing football.
The draft guidelines “Return to Football |Behind Closed Doors” published for feedback on Tuesday last are a welcome first step but remain some way from presenting a solution that is workable for all clubs. The Board of Finn Harps met online last evening to give detailed consideration on the best way forward for the club and the League of Ireland.
The club remains concerned at both the public health and financial implications of a resumption on a “behind closed doors” basis and in all deliberations the safety of players and staff will remain the paramount consideration.
We welcome the creativity and flexibility of the FAI in examining all options and we will continue to work constructively with them in the further development of their guidelines.
We note reports suggesting centralised venues for hosting multiple matches but this concept, if pursued, needs to be addressed in much more detail with the clubs. However, we acknowledge that contingency plans need to be examined in the event that restrictions on gatherings persist long term.
The potential financial implications for Finn Harps FC returning without fans in attendance are deeply worrying and we concur with similar financial concerns expressed by several other clubs.
As a fan owned, community club Finn Harps relies heavily on both our supporters and the business community of Donegal, both of which are deeply affected by this crisis. As a club we believe we will not be in a position in the short term to seek necessary support from sponsors, many of whom are struggling to survive, while the ongoing restrictions and social distancing measure make organising normal fundraising ventures impossible. Our club lotto has already been suspended while important major fundraisers planned are now on hold.
The return to football on a behind closed doors basis as proposed would require significant levels of financial subsidy, firstly the cost of implementing matchday COVID-19 guidelines, secondly replacing match day income loss and finally replacing commercial and fundraising income already budgeted for. While we await proposals from the FAI on how a financial package could be put in place we would expect the cost of adequate support for all clubs to run into millions.
We believe that football is about community and bringing people together and feel that playing our games in the absence of fans should be a last resort. However, these are very difficult times for all our communities but should our concerns about safety and finances be adequately addressed then the club will work with all parties to bring football back as soon as it is safe to do so.