Chairman updates fans on club and league future

Sligo Rovers chairman Tommy Higgins has said the football authority in the country should be credited for what they are trying to do in finding a solution to return to action, but it is unlikely to be practical.

In an update today on Ocean FM ahead of the Sligo Rovers Interactive Quiz on Thursday night, the Rovers chairman said the document issued to clubs compiled by the FAI, NLEC and PFAI that is titled “Return to Football – Behind Closed Doors” brings with it a lot of complications.

Financial projections will be delivered by the FAI later in the week. The government are set to issue their latest update on restrictions overall in society later in the week.

The chairman said: “First of all we have to give credit to the FAI for trying to get everything up and running. They are doing their very best for all of us under very difficult circumstances.

“Finance is one thing, but the practicalities are another. There is a 40-page list of to-dos and not to do. The resources required would be prohibitive. From our point of view it is not practical for us.

“I think our club would be against it. It is just not feasible. They have to do this exercise for UEFA to see what is happening all over Europe. It’s not just an Irish problem, it’s a European and worldwide problem. The cost factor is prohibitive and I don’t know who would be able to afford it

“We’d have to have social distancing and whether we have the facilities to input that for players, I don’t think it’s on. But I have to give support for trying it and checking if it is feasible.”

The management committee have been working behind the scenes on what remains in control for the club – including on the possibility of streaming games if they do return with limited to no spectators – and the details of which are being compiled.

However, with cost analysis, consumer research and appraisal of the market on a longer-term basis, the Rovers chairman believes it will come nowhere close to meeting revenue needs.

“There would be an initial support for that. I’m not so sure that we would get enough streams on that to finance the entire operation.

“We know our demographics, we know there could be issues with broadband in certain areas, we know there could be competition against other leagues when they return. When we weigh it up, it’s probably not looking a viable operation. We’ll continue to look at that.”

The FAI listed a series of proposals for a return, including two which are to begin in September. They remain the most likely scenarios but it is “early days” according to the chairman.

“My view from the start was that the 19 June was very ambitious and it would be September at the earliest when games could be played.

“Again you have to credit the FAI because they gave us choices and put a plan in place. If it is not June, we look to September, but it is still early days yet so we will see what happens if September is a time for kicking off again.

“That puts up another obstacle again. We would have to go back to winter football. In the circumstances that would be fine. We’re just itching to get it back up and running again.

“However, we have to listen to scientists and experts. The entertainment industry is looking like they are nearly writing off all of 2020. All events this year, the vast majority have been switched to 2021, they’ve just flipped it a year. That does tell us something in terms of events and it is a worldwide practice.“

There are many unknowns going forward, some of which are impossible to plan for, but the chairman reiterated a promise to guard the club and that while there is no activity on the pitch, there is lots of thought going on behind the scenes.

“The club is okay at this moment, we’re happy with where we are today in the situation. With thanks to our club lotto and 500 Club, we do have at least some income. That has been a great help to us. So we have some outgoings and they are helping us to meet those.

“I think of the players and staff because it is very difficult for them, they are just waiting and they have been very understanding and supportive. We’re thankful for that. The supporters have been asking constantly about the club and we’re grateful too because we want them to stay involved with us and keep in touch with us.

“We will have a couple of small events like the quiz on Thursday. They will be fundraisers too and very much low key because the fans are suffering as well out there. A lot of them are not working or have changed circumstances.

“We are very conscious of that and we will be careful with how we approach everything. There is no major danger at the moment and that is because of the measures we took last month. That could change, we just have to plan as best we can and much of it is out of our control.

“It is horrible that we are in this situation but hopefully we can get back to football. We’re okay. I’m concerned more about the players right now.

“They are training alone and it’s very difficult when in isolation. I think every club in Europe is in the same position so we have to keep on with it.

“As we said last month, when all of this started, our target to reach the other side of this, is that we are in a position to have a strong club ready to function fully again.”

The interactive quiz begins on Thursday at 8pm on the club’s YouTube and Facebook page, with entry available here.

“I hope as many people as can play along. It’s something for all the family.

“You can enter on SRFCDirect and all the proceeds will help us. I want to thank everyone who does support it.”