The Football Association of Ireland has authorised a new pathway for a Safer Return to Football for SSE Airtricity League and Women’s National League clubs that will allow them to return to full contact training and play friendly matches from June 29th in accordance with new Government guidelines.
The SSE Airtricity League is also to suspend testing for COVID-19 on players and staff from four SSE Airtricity League clubs – Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City - with immediate effect.
Under the new Safer Return to Football pathway, all SSE Airtricity League and Women’s National League clubs can make a return to training with full contact from June 29th. SSE Airtricity League clubs can play friendly games against each other from June 29th and against Adult Amateur teams from July 11th.
Underage National League clubs are permitted to train from June 29th and can play friendly games from July 11th. Dates for their return to underage National League fixtures are under consideration.
As part of the new pathway, the SSE Airtricity League is to suspend testing of players and staff from European qualified teams, conducted as part of the pilot programme for the safer return for all Irish football. Six rounds of testing have been carried out over the last four weeks on players and staff from Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City. All tests to date have produced negative results.
After the latest series of negative results, FAI Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne has recommended that the Association suspend the COVID-19 testing programme, as all SSE Airtricity League and Women’s National League teams prepare for a full return to training and matches from June 29th.
“The results to date from the six rounds of testing have all been negative and that is a real indicator that our game is a minimal contact sport which reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for our players,” said Dr Byrne. “When you analyse those results and look at the medical evidence from other leagues around Europe, I am confident that we can suspend testing now as we prepare for a Safer Return to Football.
“Our aim from the very outset of this process has been to accommodate a return to play that is as safe as we can possibly make it for our players, match officials, staff and everyone involved with our clubs. I have said all along that the only certainty with COVID-19 is the uncertainty but these results all suggest that we are moving in the right direction as we look to get Irish football back to something approaching normality.
“We remain committed to Government guidelines around COVID-19 and this decision can be reversed if circumstances change. I would give great credit to all the players and staff from the four clubs who have made this pilot programme a success.”
SSE Airtricity League clubs will decide on their potential return to League action by early next week while talks are ongoing with regard to an August start date for the Women’s National League