Boris Johnson announces a ‘review’ of plans to reopen stadiums, putting the October 1 return of fans on the rocks… as the Premier League warn they face losing £700MILLION without crowds
Football was plunged into turmoil on Wednesday by the Prime Minister’s new restrictions.
Boris Johnson dropped his bombshell that there was to be a review of plans to reopen stadiums less than an hour after Premier League chief executive Richard Masters had declared it was ‘absolutely critical’ fans were allowed back into grounds as soon as possible.
Masters had disclosed that the absence of supporters could cost top-flight clubs around £700million over the season.
Boris Johnson has announced a ‘review’ of plans to reopen stadiums for sport fans in October
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that test events for the rest of this month would be capped at 1,000 spectators, and that the Government would review plans for an October 1 permanent return of spectators nearer the time.
Until Wednesday morning, Premier League clubs including Manchester United and Tottenham had been working on proposals to host test events at their first home matches of the season. That is unlikely to happen now.
United were hoping to allow 12,000 fans into Old Trafford for their fixture against Crystal Palace a week on Saturday.
The consensus is that top-flight clubs are wealthy enough to weather the storm. But Masters argued that behind-closed-doors matches ‘cannot go on for ever’.
The biggest concerns, however, are in the EFL. In League One and League Two, gate receipts make up a far more significant percentage of revenue than in the Premier League. For many, ticket sales and cash on the turnstiles account for around a third of their turnover.
The continued absence of such vital funds is likely to push clubs — some of whom are already on the precipice — over the edge.
On Tuesday night, 862 people watched Cambridge United beat Fulham Under 21s in the EFL Trophy and it had been planned for the Abbey Stadium to host 2,500 for the League Two opener against Carlisle on Saturday in a second pilot. That number has now been reduced to 1,000.
‘Quite a few clubs simply cannot get through the season without gate receipts,’ the chief executive of a League One outfit told Sportsmail.
‘The longer it continues, the more casualties there will be. At our level and below, football without gate receipts is not viable.’
When the contents of the Prime Minister’s pending statement began to emerge, a series of panicked calls were made between EFL clubs.
The development will increase pressure on the Premier League to provide a bailout to their EFL counterparts. Talks are ongoing, Masters confirmed on Wednesday. The EFL are understood to be seeking £250m over four years.
The news will come as a bitter blow to supporters who had hoped to go to games in October
But Premier League chief executive Richard Masters warns they will lose £700m with no fans
Masters admitted the league and its clubs can ill-afford to play behind closed doors for ever
Pilot events such as Brighton’s friendly against Chelsea will be limited to 1,000 people