COVID-19: FA Chairman Greg Clarke says there is ‘danger of losing clubs and leagues’

Chairman of the FA, Greg Clarke, told the FA Council meeting today that the English game is ‘in danger of losing clubs and leagues’ as football, like all other industries, battles with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clarke delivered a speech to the council in which he made some heavy remarks, including saying that while they are ‘committed to finishing the league’, they may not be able to as ‘football is not our (the FA) priority’.

There has been plenty of speculation as to whether or not the English football league season will be able to be finished, and what the best course of action will be if they are unable to finish.

According to The Times, there comes a heavy penalty for not finishing the league as the Premier League possibly having to pay back over £750m to various broadcasters as a result of their agreement being breached.

Clarke says that football is facing an economic challenges ‘beyond the wildest imagination’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Football faces economic challenges beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it,” said Clarke. “The pandemic will be followed by its economic consequences and all business sectors will suffer.

“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.”

To combat the financial impact of the virus, the government introduced the Job Retention Scheme which allows businesses to put their staff on furlough leave and claim 80% of their wages up to £2,500 per month.

A lot of football clubs, particularly lower down the leagues, have begun to use the scheme. Both Sunderland AFC and Crewe Alexandra placed their staff, including first team players and academy players, on furlough leave this afternoon.

Some Premier League clubs have used the scheme too with Newcastle, Tottenham, Norwich and Bournemouth all placing a number of staff on furlough leave. Liverpool had followed, but opted to reverse that decision yesterday.

Clarke went on to warn that people should be aware that the Premier League ‘is not immune’ from the impact of COVID-19 before calling for unity in the fight against this deadly disease.

“Everyone should understand that the Premier League clubs are not immune from the impact of this,” said Clarke. “…and whilst they are impacted to different degrees depending on their cost base, the potential overall financial impact is huge.

“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. Those that lost their clubs because English football did not rise to the challenge would rightly judge us harshly.

“Time is pressing as football burns through its cash reserves with no sign yet of a resumption of the game. Pointing fingers serves no purpose.

“It is time for the stakeholders to agree common cause to save our game. Contribute. Football is a team game and now is the time for teamwork.”

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