Government tells Premier League to bail out struggling EFL clubs, with football set to miss out on aid package for sport – with ministers aware top flight teams have splashed out almost £1BILLION on pre-season deals
The Premier League sparked a public battle with the Government on Tuesday by strongly condemning their decision to exclude fans from stadiums — a blanket ban that is expected to remain in place for most of the season.
In another sign of the growing rift, Government sources indicated professional football is unlikely to receive any funding from a planned rescue package for sport, which was discussed in a meeting on Tuesday afternoon with the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden.
The Premier League broke ranks before that briefing with officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport — criticising the Government, just hours after Boris Johnson’s statement in the House of Commons, for a decision it claimed would have a ‘devastating impact’ on clubs and communities.
The Premier League has criticised the Government’s decision to delay the return of fans
The response of the 20 top-flight clubs to a funding crisis contrasted with that of other major sports, with rugby union and racing effectively begging the Government for a bailout.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: ‘Without support we are in danger of clubs at the heart of communities across England, as well as players and volunteers, disappearing for ever.’
It was a stark warning of the problems facing a sport that is forecast to lose £138million as a result of England’s autumn internationals being played behind closed doors at Twickenham.
Boris Johnson revealed a string of new measures to try and fight coronavirus on Tuesday
Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale also called for the Government to ‘step in and provide direct support to the industry’ which he claimed ordinarily contributes £4billion to the economy each year.
Football’s Premier League did not ask the Government for money and there is a widespread acceptance none will be forthcoming. This will alarm many clubs in League One and League Two who fear they will go bust if they do not receive additional funding in the next two months. While there is an appetite in Government to provide assistance for the women’s game and at National League level, sources have disclosed that Downing Street does not feel it should be called upon to deliver a rescue package for the Premier League and the EFL.
There is also a strong belief in Westminster that the Premier League should agree a bailout package with the EFL, in the form of aid or a loan, to see clubs through the crisis.
The Premier League emphasised the financial impact of continuing to play games without fans
The huge sums spent by some clubs in the transfer market this summer have not gone unnoticed by politicians, with Chelsea alone having invested more than £200m on players.
The overall spending of Premier League clubs on transfers this summer is estimated to be around £940m.
Several clubs have already benefited from Government assistance in the form of tax holidays and furlough money.
The Government first asked the Premier League to provide financial support for the rest of the football pyramid in June. But other than advancing solidarity money already owed to the EFL and providing grants for the Women’s Super League and National League, they are yet to make a tangible offer.
The FA and EFL will continue to liaise with the Government over the return of fans
The Premier League’s criticism of the Government and claim that clubs can accommodate crowds safely is unlikely to improve relations. It follows a similar statement a fortnight ago when several planned test events with fans were cancelled following the introduction of the Rule of Six.
The FA and EFL are equally desperate for fans to return and do not have the protection of a £3bn annual television deal to fall back on. But they prefer to lobby in private and did not comment.
‘Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them,’ said the Premier League in a statement.