Al­trin­cham

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Covid Crisis -

At Al­trin­cham they were ready for their re­turn to the Na­tional League af­ter pro­mo­tion in Au­gust. The play­ing staff had been taken off fur­lough, guide­lines had been fol­lowed and prepa­ra­tions made to en­sure the club’s Moss Lane ground was ca­pa­ble of host­ing the an­tic­i­pated so­cially dis­tanced 1,000 spec­ta­tors. Then came yes­ter­day’s gov­ern­men­tal an­nounce­ment that the plan to ad­mit fans had been sus­pended in­def­i­nitely.

“If you ask me what we do now, there’s a sim­ple an­swer: I don’t know yet,” said Bill Water­son, the club chair­man. “The Na­tional had re­peat­edly said if there were no fans there would be no restart. They recog­nised with­out fans clubs would not have the in­come to sup­port play­ing be­hind closed doors. Hence the de­lay of the start to Oct 3. That now ap­pears to be a gam­ble that didn’t pay off. And we have yet to hear from them what hap­pens now.”

At Al­trin­cham, Water­son and the board had made plans for ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity. They have de­vel­oped a stream­ing ser­vice to al­low fans to watch be­hind closed doors fix­tures. But he ad­mits that would only de­liver about 25 per cent of stan­dard match-day rev­enue.

“If we started be­hind closed doors, we could prob­a­bly live for a month or two,” Water­son added.

Premier League sup­port­ers and broad­cast part­ners were last night ex­pect­ing the tele­vis­ing of ev­ery game to con­tinue af­ter plans for the re­turn of crowds were scrapped.

Clubs were due to meet in the com­ing days to vote on whether to al­low all matches to be shown next month and po­ten­tially be­yond, hav­ing re­versed their de­ci­sion to block fans watch­ing 160 of them by mak­ing each of this month’s avail­able.

Sources at broad­cast­ers said they ex­pected the same ar­range­ment to ap­ply un­der which they have been awarded ad­di­tional matches at no ex­tra cost since the world’s rich­est league re­sumed.

That would see the BBC awarded at least one more game, and po­ten­tially sev­eral more if fans are shut out for up to an­other six months.

Broad­cast­ers were not ex­pect­ing clubs to set up some kind of ri­val stream­ing ser­vice to show matches that had not al­ready been al­lo­cated to Sky Sports, BT Sport and Ama­zon.

The Foot­ball Sup­port­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, which led a cam­paign to get all games shown, wel­comed the news and said in a state­ment: “The Gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment of a ‘pause’ on fans re­turn­ing to games high­lights the ne­ces­sity for all leagues to en­sure fans can watch their team, even if sta­di­ums are closed.”

Show­ing all games live could mean re­ar­rang­ing fix­tures so they do not clash with those Sky, BT and Ama­zon are plan­ning to show,

Clubs, how­ever, are un­der­stood to be con­cerned about the po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial im­pact of that when it comes to their over­seas’ rights deals in the Far East and the Amer­i­cas.

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