The Football Association of Ireland has approved a new Safer Return to Football Pathway that will see adult amateur and under-age football permitted to return to full-contact training, including training games between teams from the same club, from Monday and authorised to make a full return to playing friendly games from July 11th and competitive matches from July 18.
The FAI’s Steering Group, in consultation with Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne, has recommended the transition from cessation to kick-off, based on the latest Government guidelines and advice from the Department of Health and HSE as lockdown measures around COVID-19 ease.
The FAI remains committed to the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business and any return dates announced are subject to change, as per Government guidelines.
A separate statement around the SSE Airtricity League, Women’s National League and underage National Leagues has also been published.
The decision to move from cessation to a return to competitive football from July 18 applies to adult amateur and under-age football under the jurisdiction of the FAI and will apply to all players, coaches, match officials, club officials, volunteers, parents and guardians.
Work on Safer Return to Football protocols for Football For All and Futsal affiliates is underway and details will be announced in due course.
Under the new Safer Return to Football pathway, the FAI has approved the following measures:
Adult amateur and under-age football can return to full contact training, including training games between teams from the same club, from June 29
Adult amateur and under-age football can return to playing friendly games from July 11
Adult amateur and under-age football can return to playing competitive matches from July 18
All adult amateur and under-age Leagues operating a winter season, who have had applications to extend their 2019-2020 season approved, can resume League fixtures from July 18 and must have all competitions completed by September 14
All other adult amateur and under-age leagues operating a winter season can commence their 2020/21 season from July 18
All adult amateur and under-age leagues operating a summer season can resume/commence from July 18 and must have all competitions completed by November 30
"This decision allows all our players and stakeholders to look forward to a full and safe return to competitive football by July 20," said FAI Interim CEO Gary Owens said. "I know how much that will mean to so many across the country.
"Our game has been in lockdown since early March due to the Covid-19 pandemic so this is great news for all concerned. We must, at this point, thank all those frontline workers who have made so many sacrifices to allow us, as a society, to get back to a point where we can plan for a Safer Return to Football and for the return of live sport to all our lives.
"The Football community, together with so many of our FAI staff, have also worked so hard to get us ready for this return and I want to thank all those who have made this announcement possible. I also want to thank the Government and all their agencies for their support for Irish football in what has been a very challenging time for everyone.
"We will remain fully committed to all Government guidelines regarding COVID-19 but this offers real hope to Irish football at all levels of the game and I look forward to seeing all our players back on the field of play."
FAI Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne thanked the clubs and players who have already followed the FAI’s Safer Return to Training Protocol in Phases One and Two of the Government’s Roadmap.
"The effort and work necessary to get players back on the training pitch as we continue the battle against COVID-19 has been so demanding for everyone," said Dr Byrne.
"All our clubs, from the biggest senior teams to the smallest under-age clubs across the country, deserve so much credit for getting us to this point. Our aim is to make football as safe as it can be for all concerned within our game. We are very close now to getting back on the pitch and playing matches again and I urge all involved to follow the Protocol for a Safer Return to Football as we complete this journey together."