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Men’s Football We have no future without fans, say clubs

CLUBS in the English Football League (EFL) and National League pulled no punches yesterday when telling Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that they have already begun to plan for administration if the government doesn’t intervene and give the green light for fans to return to stadiums.

An open letter co-signed by 17 individuals including former Football Association chairmen Greg Dyke and Lord Triesman and former footballer-turned pundit Robbie Savage says help is urgently needed to ward off the threat of financial collapse.

The government announced last week that plans for spectators to return to sports venues from October 1 had been scrapped due to a rise in coronavirus infections.

Dowden has now been told that without some sort of rescue package, a number of clubs will be lost.

“Without any plans being made to rescue clubs, many in the EFL and others in the National League as well, are now actively preparing to make all but essential staff redundant, cease playing, close down their youth academies and community foundations, and put their business into administration,” the letter warns.

“This could lead not only to the failure of many historic community clubs, but the collapse of the national league structure that we have known for over one hundred years.

“These are decisions that will be made in the coming weeks, with many clubs unable to meet their payroll obligations for next month.”

The government needed to set out what financial support it could offer, the letter said, because it was “not the sole responsibility” of the Premier League to bail out those lower down the pyramid.

It pointed out that Premier League clubs too “face swingeing losses from lost ticketing receipts and falling revenues from broadcasting matches.”

The letter referenced the £1.5 billion rescue package for the arts sector and added: “We would ask that the government now make clear what financial support it’s prepared to give before it is too late.”

Dowden attempted to pass the buck to the Premier League on Sunday when he said that they needed to “step up to the plate” to help clubs in the EFL and said he was hopeful of a deal being agreed this week.

Top-flight clubs are scheduled to gather today for an update following the government’s decision to press pause on fans returning.

The league has stated English football will lose £100m a month while no fans are admitted to venues. On the one hand the league was working with the government agency, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, on plans for fans to return on a socially distanced basis, but is now being told by a different part of government that those plans have been halted and that it must still help out the pyramid.

The Rugby Players’ Association has joined the calls for the government to put together a rescue package.

“Premiership Rugby clubs have already suffered significant financial losses from the suspension of the season following the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequently playing matches behind closed doors,” an RPA statement read.

“To continue along this path will cause irrevocable damage to clubs across the Premiership that will impact the wider game and communities they serve in England.

“In the absence of the revenues that live crowds bring to the sport, it is imperative that the game gets significant financial support to help it through this challenging time.”

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