Football Sports

Football could ‘lose clubs and leagues’, FA chief warns

According to Football Association chairman Greg Clarke, English football faces “the danger of losing clubs and leagues” amid economic challenges “beyond the wildest imagination” following the events in global health crisis. The football season both domestic and regional, even on some international tournaments, have been halted indefinitely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Football faces economic challenges beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it. The pandemic will be followed by its economic consequences, and all business sectors will suffer,” Clarke said in a speech to the FA Council. Four weeks into the suspension of the football calendar means huge loss in the revenue of clubs as fees and other broadcasting related obligations are not halted.

At the time of writing, over a million people worldwide have been infected from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that already killed more than 80,000 people. In the UK alone, more than 55,000 cases have reported, killing over 6,000. The Premier League and the Football League divisions have not played for a month due to the virus and a nationwide lockdown

“We face the danger of losing clubs and leagues as finances collapse. Many communities could lose the clubs at their heart with little chance of resurrection,” Clarke added. “In the face of this unprecedented adversity, all the stakeholders within the game from players, fans, clubs, owners and administrators need to step up and share the pain to keep the game alive.”

The FA announced earlier this week that it could face losses above £150m. Its highest earners, including England manager Gareth Southgate, had agreed to reduce their pay by up to 30%, while non-playing staff was put on furlough. Sunderland and Crewe confirmed that they were putting playing and non-playing staff on furlough.

Premier League clubs have asked for a “combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30% of total annual remuneration.” Top-flight players are set to start negotiations on a club-by-club basis over proposed wage cuts. EPL clubs such as Newcastle, Norwich and Bournemouth called for government assistance during the crisis, while Sheffield United reported to be also following.

“Everyone should understand that the Premier League clubs are not immune from the impact of this and whilst they are impacted to different degrees depending on their cost base, the potential overall financial impact is huge.” Clarke said. The last Premier League fixture was played by Leicester City against Aston Villa on March 10 and was initially postponed until at least April 4.

“We must have a plan to ensure that English football is not decimated should this season be lost and next season blighted. We hope we do not need this plan as we are all determined to finish the professional football season, however we would be fools not to develop such a contingency plan,” he warns. He also admit that there is no sign yet of a resumption of the game.

However, Clarke confirmed the FA remained committed to completing the season, subject to government’s permission. We are committed to finishing the professional football season as this resolves the issues of promotion and relegation together with title winners on merit. However, we may not be able to finish the season as football is not our priority, human life is,” he said.