Premier League bosses call for support for smaller clubs as coronavirus bites

The future of the English football pyramid is under threat.

By Press Association Published: 26 September 2020 - 6.11am

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Football

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Premier League managers have come together to call for support to help lower-league clubs through the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Plans to reintroduce spectators to sports venues from October 1 have been paused by the Government following a rise in Covid-19 infections.

The English Football League has warned it faces a £200million collective loss if spectators cannot return in the 2020-21 season.

Norwich had welcomed fans back to Carrow Road for the Sky Bet Championship match against Preston
Norwich had welcomed fans back to Carrow Road for the Sky Bet Championship match against Preston (Nigel French/PA)

Talks between the Premier League and the EFL over a bailout continue, and it is understood there will be conditions within it about how any money is spent.

EFL chairman Rick Parry admits the league needs a financial rescue package soon, although the former Liverpool chief insists the onus is not only on the Premier League to bail out the lower tiers.

He told the Daily Mail: “It is going to be a long winter. We do need rescue packages, we have said it pretty consistently. We need them soon. That has to be resolved. But we are confident it will be.

“I’m not going to criticise the Premier League. We’re in constant dialogue with them and remain calm and confident we’ll get a solution but we are looking at alternatives.

“We’re not only talking to the Premier League, we have a number of different irons in the fire. We will have something, we absolutely will have something.

“Some (clubs) are going to be struggling by the end of October, a lot will get through to March because they’ve planned prudently.”

“We need clubs locally. We have seen Bury, we have seen Macclesfield, Wigan, in trouble, so it’s not a nice situation to be in.”
- Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows the importance of protecting the football pyramid – but is also acutely aware of the impact having no fans in grounds for the coming months will have on top-flight clubs.

“The situation we are in and the virus and everything, it is so difficult to predict what is going to happen and now when the rate is going up and fans aren’t coming in, it is even worse for football and society in general,” Solskjaer said.

“So yes, I am worried for League One and League Two clubs, lower teams, of course we are – but all the Premier League teams are losing money.

“Hopefully we can get back and football will be normal and we won’t lose too many clubs.

“How can we do it? We need clubs locally. We have seen Bury, we have seen Macclesfield, Wigan, in trouble, so it’s not a nice situation to be in.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hopes a collective approach towards a positive resolution can be found.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp knows the impact of a full house at Anfield
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp knows the impact of a full house at Anfield (Nick Potts/PA)

“In general I think people in a better position should help people in a lesser position…. The decision for all clubs at this moment is not really easy,” the German said.

“I don’t know really how the Government finds time to think about that, they have enough with other things, but I get it 100 per cent. Football should try to help, I get that.”

Sheffield United host Yorkshire rivals Leeds at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

Blades boss Chris Wilder feels the region would be a poorer place if any of its clubs went under because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the area which we live in, we are extremely proud of all the clubs which are strong and keep the area going,” Wilder said. “What football plays in this part of the world is huge.

“We are not a one-club city and we are not a two- or three-club area. Football is a huge part of life in South Yorkshire and it needs to be protected.”

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa added: “There’s two points we can take from this – football without fans is less football, but when facing such issues as we are facing right now, football is less important.”

Arsenal made 55 redundancies across football departments because of the financial impact of the pandemic.

Gunners boss Mikel Arteta feels a long-term lack of revenue from attendances would prove a “brutal” challenge.

Mikel Arteta's side won the FA Cup final behind closed doors at Wembley
Mikel Arteta’s side won the FA Cup final behind closed doors at Wembley (Catherine Ivill/PA)

“The club is playing without the fans and financially the implications that has, how that can still be sustainable, (I think about) the things we have to achieve as a team to try to improve those finances as well,” he said.

“I think it’s crucial for every club that this doesn’t have too much of a delay because then the challenge ahead is brutal.”

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard added: “I would certainly support ideas to help any form of grassroots football or sport get the help it needs to stay alive during this tough time, and we all will try and club together I suppose.”

Burnley manager Sean Dyche believes football should not be the only industry expected to support their own.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche feels there are wider issues to consider
Burnley manager Sean Dyche feels there are wider issues to consider (Richard Heathcote/PA)

He said: “If we can play our part and the powers that be decide somewhere we can help, then of course.

“But all of these top market leaders in their fields therefore should be protecting and looking after businesses which are maybe finding it tougher.”

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce added: “My thoughts are always with the smaller clubs.

“They have been there 100 years and unfortunately if we are not careful, I think we are going to see a lot of them find it very difficult and may not survive.”