Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay South Chris Andrews has called on the Department of Sport to establish a kick-start solidarity grant for League of Ireland clubs.
Deputy Andrews highlighted that the important role played by League of Ireland clubs in their communities is now at risk due to decimated resources as the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis hits home.
Teachta Andrews said: “League of Ireland clubs such as Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians have played such an important role in developing our underage football structures, nurturing young talent and providing employment and career opportunities for some of our most talented sportspeople.
“Clubs’ incomes have been decimated due to Covid-19 and they now face the prospect of a total lack of gate receipts for the rest of the season, which will have a knock-on effect for other income streams such as sponsorship and merchandise sales.
“But this crisis can be a temporary one if state supports are put in place. The wages of playing, backroom and support staff of these clubs must be protected as we navigate our way through the months ahead.
“League of Ireland clubs are no longer just first teams. They are focal points in their respective communities.
“They have played a central role in various community projects with outreach programmes for schools and the elderly, and inclusivity initiatives for both the socially and mentally disadvantaged in society.
“They have shown great solidarity to others too, such as programmes to integrate residents of Direct Provision Centres into the football family, and initiatives such as bringing and welcoming Gaza kids to Ireland.
“This kind of community engagement is reflected all across the state by various League of Ireland clubs.
“They have truly played their part in society and now they need a leg-up from the state to see themselves through to the other side of this crisis intact.
“Unfortunately the feedback from people within League of Ireland clubs shows that there is little optimism among many of them about the financial viability of returning to play football this season.
“Some even fear they may not survive this crisis at all. Those fears were not allayed when the league’s clubs met with the FAI yesterday.
‘’The establishment of a kick-start solidarity grant would be a welcome step in the right direction and I have asked Minister Shane Ross to commit that no clubs will be allowed go out of existence due to the Covid-19 crisis, and to engage with both the FAI and League of Ireland clubs to ensure the continued viability of our league.’’