A government Minister has said that lower-league football should ‘first look after itself’ after calls for a state-backed plan to help English Football League clubs avoid insolvency during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sunderland Co-owner Charlie Methven and former Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee chair Damian Collins co-authored a plan which has called for a Football Finance Authority (FFA), underwritten by the government, to provide funds to help clubs that have been affected by Covid-19 to stay open.
League One and Two clubs have been particularly affected by the absolute loss of match-day revenue as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Collins has argued that there may only be weeks ‘to save professional football as we know it’.
Collins questioned the current Secretary of State for DCMS, Oliver Dowden, as to what support the government will be providing.
Dowden replied: “The most important first step is to get sports going behind closed doors because that helps secure revenue, so we’ve got the Premier League and then the Championship.
“I would look first to sports to look after themselves and I’m meeting extensively with the EFL and Premiership and FA. But of course we’ll continue to work on this.”
The government has already assisted in keeping rugby league in England going by pledging a £16m loan to the sport.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters did not rule out further support from the top flight to the EFL and further down the pyramid, but indicated that the first priority was to complete the 2019-20 season and see how things looked.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said that whilst clubs could receive support from others including the EFL, the current priority was to complete the 2019-020 season and plan based on its outcome.
Masters said: “Until we have been able to get back playing, until we have a clear plan to start season 2020-21, we are dealing with our own situation.
“At the moment we have made good all our solidarity contributions to the pyramid for 2019-20 and indeed we have forwarded a big chunk of next year’s revenue, and we are committed to completing that.
“What we have to get ourselves into is a position where we are sure of the Premier League’s financial situation at a time when clubs are suffering significant revenue (losses), before we can return to that topic.”
A provisional restart date for the Premier League has been set on 17 June, with the Championship to begin on 20 June.