The Football Association has welcomed the Government’s commitment to provide financial support to clubs but warned of the “huge” impact the new coronavirus restrictions are set to have on the game.
A plan to bring fans back into sports venues on a socially-distanced basis from October 1 has been scrapped because of fears over a second wave of coronavirus infections, with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the measures announced on Tuesday could have to stay in place for six months.
Shadow Sports Minister Alison McGovern has urged the Government to act, and her call has been echoed by the FA, which said assistance is imperative if many clubs are to survive the current lockdown.
An FA statement read: “We understand the Government’s decision, as the health of the nation is the priority. However, it is important to recognise that the impact on football will be huge.
“Clubs up and down the country are really struggling, and many will have been looking forward to crowds coming back in order to provide much-needed income during these difficult times. Many, at all levels of the game, are battling to survive.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to provide financial support to clubs and will continue to work together on a return of crowds as soon as it’s safe to do so.
“We also welcome the continuation of the grassroots game, and the elite game behind closed doors, to help support the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of players across the country, with outdoor exercise more important now than ever.”
McGovern urged the Government to seek to ensure as many sports clubs as possible are prevented from going out of business, a call made more pertinent by the demise of Macclesfield earlier this month.
“Labour warned the Government over the summer that many sports clubs were teetering on the edge due to loss of ticket sales,” she said.
“While we support the measures to control the virus and save lives, the Government need to plan to make sure no one loses a much-loved sports club just because of Covid-19.”
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, met with representatives from a wide range of sports on Tuesday afternoon to hold further talks on the financial impact of the restrictions.
It is understood DCMS is keen to move quickly to identify areas where there is critical need, but remains of the view that the Premier League should provide support to the EFL.
The EFL says its 72 clubs stand to lose £200million without fans for the entirety of the 2020-21 season, with club chairmen saying on Tuesday they expected clubs to go under without immediate action.
Talks are continuing between the bodies over a possible bailout, but the Premier League has pointed out that the lack of fans is starting to have a “devastating” impact on the finances of its own clubs.
The picture is at least equally bleak within other supporter-driven sports, with English cricket recently revealing it had lost £100million as a result of the pandemic – a sum which could double due to further disruption.
The Rugby Football Union has quoted a similar financial loss from having to play the remainder of this year’s international matches behind closed doors, while clubs are feared to be losing up to £1million per month.
And Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer said it was likely that “with losses at up to £2million a week, and continued uncertainty, there will be job losses” across rugby league.
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) September 23, 2020
Exeter had hoped to welcome supporters for next Wednesday’s Premiership clash at home to London Irish, but those plans have now had to be shelved.
The Chiefs will also play a Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse behind closed doors at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The financial implications of empty stadia long term will be huge for many clubs, and Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter said: “Outside of professional sport, a lot of sports clubs that just provide community service are just going to disappear. You can’t run businesses on zero finance.”
🎯 UPDATE 🎯
The Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals in November will be held behind closed doors.
Fans with Weekend Break bookings are being contacted by email by @ButlinsMusic.
Full story 👇https://t.co/5GezYNpVkZ
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) September 23, 2020
The Professional Darts Corporation has announced the Players Championship finals will be staged behind closed doors in November.
The Butlin’s Minehead Resort is unable to host the event as planned because of current social distancing guidelines.
A rearranged venue for the three-day tournament will be confirmed “in due course”, the governing body said in a statement.