Dundalk FC Chief Operating Officer Martin Connolly believes the club will continue to pay their employees as normal for the foreseeable future but admits it is worrying times for all staff associated with the Oriel Park outfit as to what the future holds.
With the SSE Airtricity League now suspended until June 19th at best, two clubs – Sligo Rovers and Cork City – have already announced that they will be laying staff off both on and off the field.
So far, only Bohemians have said they will continue to pay their players, albeit with some to-be-agreed adjustments to allow for the fact that the season will now potentially run until December 4th.
Asked by The Argus had any assurances been given from America as to what would happen in relation to wages at Dundalk in light of Sligo Rovers’ announcement last Thursday that they were laying off staff, Martin said: “No, at the moment we’re carrying on as normal.
“It is worrying and concerning when you see anybody lay off staff, particularly Sligo Rovers who have put such great work into their club.
“I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision but they’ve probably made the right decision for the future of their club and I think that’s foremost in anybody’s mind when they make decisions like that.
“Sligo Rovers will come back bigger, stronger and better because they’re a great club and a very important part of our league.”
Despite the hope that all contracts at Oriel Park will be honoured, Martin admitted the current predicament was a bigger challenge for Dundalk FC than the situation the club found itself in eight years ago in 2012 when it nearly went out of business.
“I think it’s a bigger test because I think it affects an awful lot more people.
“I think everybody in our town and our community has been affected by it and we feel for them and that’s why it’s very important that we keep in touch with them via our social media mediums and I think we’ve been very strong over the last week or so in getting the message out that if people need anything at all to contact us and then if we can help them at all we will.
“It affects so many people that it’s a lot more important that we stay together on this.”
Chairman Bill Hulsizer represented the club in last Friday’s meeting where the date of June 19th was determined for a potential re-start of the league but Connolly is also a member of the National League Executive Committee which determined the details of the new proposed revamped league along with the FAI.
He admits the return date for action is “aspirational” but is hopeful it can be achieved.
“I think it’s aspirational but we have to try to set targets,” said Martin.
“I think if you don’t set targets you’re leaving yourself open to more criticism.
“The thinking behind it is that we’re in line with UEFA’s calendar. If UEFA’s calendar goes ahead then why shouldn’t our league go ahead and if it doesn’t go ahead then it’s going to be stopped on Government advice or Government warnings and I don’t think anybody would have a huge complaint about that.”
While cutting the final round of fixtures would make things difficult for Dundalk on and off the pitch with the loss of five home fixtures – including big games against Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians – Connolly said it was far from ideal for anyone.
“That was one of the things that came into my head but you can’t get into a situation where you pick and choose what fixtures you’re going to have or say we’re not happy about that because we have Rovers twice away and Bohs twice away.
“It’s a difficult time but it’s difficult for everyone. I don’t think there are a lot of options and if June 19th doesn’t happen – which would be down to a lot of other factors – then your options reduce another wee bit as well,” he said.
The former Dundalk and Monaghan Utd goalkeeper also said he expects dates for the club’s European matches this July to remain as is for the time being.
“At the moment, from what I can gather, UEFA’s target is to get the 2019/20 calendar finished and then the 2020/21 calendar will look after itself because our Q1 and Q2 game won’t interfere with the Champions League final obviously. They’re different levels.
“I don’t think there has been any thought or negotiations to move them at the moment. That’s not to say they won’t be moved because everything has to be looked at but I would say the plan at the moment is to satisfy Manchester United, Juventus and Real Madrid and not worry about the likes of Riga, Dundalk and Linfield. I would think that’s the plan at the moment.”
Connolly also revealed that minor works were planned at Oriel Park at present during the current down time.
“The company policy at the moment is that if you can do your work at home then you do it and we’re trying to adhere to that. One or two of us can go into Oriel Park because we have separate offices and we’re not breaking any guidelines or anything like that.
“It does give us a chance to get things done that we may have put on the long finger. A criticism of the League of Ireland clubs is that there is no long-term planning but there’s no long-term planning because you don’t have any time. We generally work week to week so we’ve found that we are now getting different bits and pieces done that we can.
“Going by all the guidelines if we can get any bits and pieces done around the ground, we have been trying to do that. It’s surreal at the moment but we’re still trying to do some bits and pieces to keep some form of normality as well.”