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Coronavirus: Irish FA can weather financial storm, says former chief Jim Shaw


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Jim Shaw

Jim Shaw

�William Cherry / Presseye

Jim Shaw

Irish FA Foundation chairman and respected former president Jim Shaw is backing the Association to make the right calls to limit the financial damage caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The global pandemic has left many organisations, including the Irish FA, in a financial storm.

Football has stopped and its significance firmly put in perspective by the health crisis which continues to claim lives.

The Irish FA are also reeling from a financial blow at a time when their Scottish counterparts admitted manager Steve Clarke and SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell had agreed a 10% cut in salary and 50% of staff were placed on furlough leave on top of £5m-£6m in lost revenue.

The Irish FA will also have to discuss savings in a time of no gate receipts, staff going on furlough leave, no Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Bosnia and Herzegovina, no potential play-off final at Windsor Park, no financial rewards for qualifying for the finals and no Irish Cup semi-finals or final.

When there’s no football being played, there will be no gate receipts for starters. The game is bringing nothing in. There’s no international football

An Irish FA spokesperson said: "In line with the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Irish FA has placed a number of staff on furlough until further notice.

"We hope to be able to facilitate a return to work for these staff members, and to continue promoting, fostering and developing football for all, as soon as possible.

"Like in any big organisation, the financial implications of the virus need to be considered."

Shaw, whose Irish FA service began in 1989 until he stepped down as president after Northern Ireland's remarkable Euro 2016 campaign, believes no one can schedule any football matches between now and Christmas with any certainty but he believes the Association will make the right moves to come through this period of financial turbulence.

"The IFA will need to minimise the financial impact on their business," said Shaw, whose last match as president was the defeat to Wales in France.

"I would expect they will make the right calls. They have to.

"These are difficult financial challenges."

Irish League clubs are also under financial pressure and calling out for help, with Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson (right) this week asking the Northern Ireland Executive to consider adding football to its Business Support Grant Schemes.

Three Northern Ireland senior Uefa Women’s Euro 2021 qualifiers will need to be rescheduled and the Uefa European Under-19 Championship final tournament scheduled for July has also been postponed until further notice.

Throw into the mix the uncertainty over Michael O’Neill’s future as he combines his role as Northern Ireland boss with his Stoke City job and it’s fair to conclude that it’s a challenging time for the Irish FA.

Shaw added: “When there’s no football being played, there will be no gate receipts for starters. The game is bringing nothing in. There’s no international football.

“Perhaps their big income streams from Uefa and Fifa will be there but I would be positive they will make all the sensible savings they can make.

“A lot of people in football and rugby have accepted wage reductions.

“I have some experience of the social club in Nortel and we put some staff on furlough as it’s the obvious thing to do. Where the money is coming from I’ve no idea!

“The problem we have is that no one can schedule anything between now and Christmas with any certainty.

I’d give local clubs great credit if they could get through this unscathed and I’m confident NIFL and the IFA will do their best to help clubs

“Unfortunately, like everyone else, the IFA have to deal with the impact of what is a serious global illness.

“The problem with this issue is the lack of control we have over it.”

Shaw also feels the pain of Irish League clubs having to soldier on with no money coming into their coffers.

Coleraine and Crusaders were among the first clubs to confirm their plans to place staff on the government’s furlough scheme.

The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme means employees can claim up to 80% of their wage (up to £2,500 per month) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shaw, who handed over the IFA presidential duties to David Martin, added: “Every senior club in Northern Ireland is a business because they pay players.

“Wages have to be paid and there are insurance costs.

“Major English clubs could be strong enough to weather this financial storm but our Irish League clubs could take a bigger hit.

“I’d give local clubs great credit if they could get through this unscathed and I’m confident NIFL and the IFA will do their best to help clubs.

“Without senior football you don’t have the game and you need junior football as well to have that pyramid. The funding is essential to protect all levels of the game to keep that pyramid in place.”

As for when football returns, Shaw is struggling to see light at the end of the tunnel.

“I think Uefa had no choice but to put all the games back,” he added. “Football is very popular across the world and so many competitions leave little space in the calendar any more.

If this goes on for a long time I would worry about people not going out as much and perhaps not going to football matches. I hope not, but we might lose a few supporters

“It’s a major issue from a football perspective and there’s so much money involved in it too.

“You just have to roll with it and take the best advice but we could have no football until the autumn. The play-off can be put back as the Euro 2020 finals aren’t until next summer.

“UK medics are saying this could last six months, so that takes us to September.

“It’s really hard to work out dates when you don’t know how long this will last.

“I like to apply logic to things but you can’t here.

“Imagine an Irish Cup final behind closed doors. For me, that takes away the ethos of it. It’s a deflation of football.

“If this goes on for a long time I would worry about people not going out as much and perhaps not going to football matches. I hope not, but we might lose a few supporters.”

Shaw is currently self-isolating in his Jordanstown home and he’s looking forward to normal service resuming at Nortel, a club he’s been associated with for 45 years.

Belfast Telegraph