Coronavirus: FA warns of ‘huge impact’ of Government’s new restrictions on game

Written by on 23/09/2020

The Football Association has welcomed the Government’s commitment to provide financial support to clubs but warned that new coronavirus restrictions will have a “huge” impact on the sport.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrapped a plan to bring fans back into sports venues on a socially-distanced basis from October 1 because of fears over a second wave of coronavirus infections, with the possibility the measures could stay in place for six months.

The FA said assistance is imperative if many clubs are to survive the current lockdown, amid frustration from the Premier League and English Football League at the prospect of no spectators attending fixtures throughout the winter.

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.”

Shadow Sports Minister Alison McGovern urged the Government to seek to ensure as many sports clubs as possible are prevented from going out of business, following 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 governing bodies on Tuesday afternoon to hold further talks on the financial impact of the restrictions.

The Government is understood to remain of the view that the Premier League and the EFL should support each other, but is open to the idea of identifying where there is critical need in the sports sector and offering financial support.

The EFL says its 72 clubs stand to lose £200m 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.

“EFL clubs lost £50m last season as a result of playing matches behind closed doors or curtailing the season and stand to lose a further £200m in 2020/21 should we be required to play the whole season without supporters in grounds,” EFL chairman Rick Parry said in a statement.

“I am encouraged that the Government has recognised the need for urgent financial assistance for sport and discussions will continue with DCMS and the Premier League.

“We remain optimistic that a solution will be found but we should also be very clear that if it is not, then the outlook for many clubs in the period ahead will be very challenging.”

Talks are continuing between the bodies over a possible bailout, but the Premier League has pointed out that the absence of fans is beginning 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 £100m 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 £1m per month.

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer said it was likely that “with losses at up to £2m a week, and continued uncertainty, there will be job losses” across rugby league.

Exeter Chiefs 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 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.”

(c) Sky Sports 2020: Coronavirus: FA warns of ‘huge impact’ of Government’s new restrictions on game

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