Foot­ball elite in bat­tle over Covid bail-out

Premier League urged to help af­ter fans re­turn de­layed Fears of ‘Ar­maged­don’ af­ter new Gov­ern­ment crack­down

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tom Mor­gan, Jeremy Wil­son, Ben Rumsby and Gavin Mairs

The Premier League and the Gov­ern­ment are on a col­li­sion course over a res­cue pack­age for Bri­tish sport to­talling more than £1bil­lion.

Boris John­son an­nounced yes­ter­day that the re­turn of fans to sta­di­ums would be in­def­i­nitely post­poned, with this and other new lock­down mea­sures last­ing “per­haps six months” and hav­ing “pro­found con­se­quences”.

Min­is­ters are close to sign­ing off on a de­tailed bail-out to off­set the sub­se­quent multi-mil­lion pound loss of match-day rev­enue, with the Trea­sury hope­ful of agree­ing to a sup­port pack­age within days.

Last night res­cue talks es­ca­lated be­tween gov­ern­ing bod­ies and the Gov­ern­ment, with the Prime Min­is­ter and his Cab­i­net de­ter­mined to en­sure the Premier League – the world’s most wealthy do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion – takes the lead in stop­ping the foot­balling pyra­mid col­laps­ing this win­ter with a £200mil­lion pack­age hav­ing been pro­posed.

While the Premier League told min­is­ters it re­mains will­ing to show “sol­i­dar­ity” with the lower tiers, one source close to the talks likened the sit­u­a­tion to a “stand-off ” be­cause of con­cerns raised by a host of the di­vi­sion’s smaller clubs.

Brighton, for ex­am­ple, have pre­vi­ously told The Daily Tele­graph they would have to make job cuts to af­ford to sup­port the English Foot­ball League be­fore crowds re­turn.

Af­ter a sum­mer in which Chelsea, Liver­pool and Tot­ten­ham have spent al­most £400mil­lion be­tween them in the cur­rent trans­fer win­dow, there re­mains lit­tle sym­pa­thy at White­hall – or amongst the three lower di­vi­sions – at their com­par­a­tive plight.

Andy Holt, the Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley chair­man, said the pack­age should be eas­ily af­ford­able for the big­gest clubs. Joey Bar­ton, the man­ager of League One Fleet­wood Town, added that “Ar­maged­don” was com­ing un­less foot­ball’s wealth was re­dis­tributed.

The Premier League has been in weeks of dis­cus­sions with the EFL. Last night Sean Dy­che, the Burn­ley man­ager, de­fended the po­si­tion fac­ing smaller clubs in the top tier.

“If the Premier League can do their bit to en­hance the chance of other teams sur­viv­ing, and when that is needed, pos­si­bly they’ll step in,” he said.

“But if you are go­ing to ap­ply that rule of thumb, does that mean ev­ery hedge fund man­ager that is in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful is go­ing to fil­ter that down to the hedge fund man­agers that are not so suc­cess­ful?”

Frank Lam­pard urged Premier League teams to “have a heart”. The Chelsea man­ager added: “I think it’s im­por­tant the Premier League as a col­lec­tive looks at sup­port­ing the EFL, the leagues be­low and grass­roots foot­ball ab­so­lutely,”

Bar­ton, how­ever, said it would be

“ab­so­lutely wrong” if the elite fails to step in to help. “We have to pro­tect the game from it­self,” he added.

The over­all Gov­ern­ment bail-out aims to pro­tect the ma­jor­ity of 600,000 jobs across the sport­ing sec­tor, but pay­outs will be re­stricted to pro­jected losses in gate re­ceipts over the com­ing months, the Daily

Tele­graph un­der­stands.

In do­mes­tic foot­ball these stand at £1bil­lion and climb­ing since lock­down be­gan in March. Rugby union is fac­ing po­ten­tial re­duc­tions in rev­enues of £344mil­lion, while rac­ing is braced for a £300mil­lion hit.

The scale of the cri­sis fac­ing rugby was laid bare by the Rugby Foot­ball Union. Af­ter cri­sis talks with Cul­ture Sec­re­tary Oliver Dow­den, chief ex­ec­u­tive Bill Sweeney ex­pressed deep con­cern over the loss of crowds at Twick­en­ham for the Au­tumn Na­tions Cup, as well as in the Premier­ship and Cham­pi­onship.

“With no fans this au­tumn we will see a £122mil­lion re­duc­tion in rev­enue re­sult­ing in a loss of £46mil­lion and with no fans for the Guin­ness Six Na­tions this will in­crease to a £138mil­lion re­duc­tion with a loss of £60mil­lion thereby pre­vent­ing in­vest­ment in ar­eas such as the women’s elite game and com­mu­nity rugby,” he said.

“Premier­ship and Cham­pi­onship Clubs will face sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial hard­ship [es­ti­mated at £120mil­lion]. Our com­mu­nity rugby clubs, many of which run grounds at the heart of their com­mu­ni­ties are un­der threat. With­out crowds and league games, com­mu­nity rugby will lose an es­ti­mated £86mil­lion this sea­son.”

With talks on­go­ing over the Premier League and EFL, min­is­ters ap­pear closer to agree­ing to foot the bill for match-day rev­enue losses in rugby, rac­ing, Women’s Su­per League foot­ball, men’s Na­tional League non-League foot­ball and at the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.

Nu­mer­ous other sports are also in dire need of an emer­gency Covid-19 bail-out sim­i­lar to the £1.57bil­lion that was pro­vided in July for the arts but fresh bail-outs are likely to in­clude loans or grants limited to those who are los­ing crowds over the com­ing months.

“It’s the start of an eco­nomic chal­lenge for ev­ery­body, and we need to look at ar­eas in most need,” a White­hall source said. “The Premier League and EFL are talk­ing to each other. It’s a plain fact that the num­bers in foot­ball are dif­fer­ent. It’s public money so we will look at ev­ery­thing.”

Sports who at­tended the meet­ing with Dow­den were told to pre­pare for the ab­sence of fans po­ten­tially un­til the end of next March. That date will be kept “un­der re­view” if virus num­bers fall again or if more ef­fec­tive drugs are rolled out.

An­nounc­ing new mea­sures to im­pact upon all sec­tors, John­son an­nounced ear­lier how sport­ing re­stric­tions would now be in­cluded in the cur­rent rule of six mea­sures. “We will also have to ex­tend the rule of six to all adult in­door team sports,” he said.

In­door team sports such as net­ball and bas­ket­ball will be banned, while elite in­door sports and those played by chil­dren will be ex­empt.

The Premier League in­di­cated in a state­ment last night that it still be­lieved crowds were safe to re­turn.

“Foot­ball is not the same with­out fans and the foot­ball econ­omy is un­sus­tain­able with­out them,” the league said. “Last sea­son, Premier League clubs suf­fered £700mil­lion in losses and, at present, our na­tional game is los­ing more than £100mil­lion per month. This is start­ing to have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on clubs and their com­mu­ni­ties.”

The EFL was one of few gov­ern­ing bod­ies not to ap­pear among a list of more than 100 lead­ers from across the sec­tor to warn Mr John­son on Mon­day that sport was fac­ing a po­ten­tial “lost gen­er­a­tion” with­out an emer­gency re­cov­ery fund.

Al­most half of all public leisure fa­cil­i­ties were un­able to re­open when lock­down mea­sures were eased in July and 6,000 per­ma­nent and ca­sual jobs in the sec­tor have al­ready been made re­dun­dant or ceased to ex­ist.

‘We need to look at the ar­eas in most need. It’s a plain fact that the num­bers in foot­ball dif­fer’

First with the news: How The Tele­graph re­vealed the EFL’s bail-out plea last week

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.