Clubs, leagues could be lost due to coronavirus pandemic financial pain, FA chairman Greg Clarke warns

Greg Clarke

FA chairman Greg Clarke says football players, club owners and fans must all share the financial pain of coronavirus and warns that clubs and leagues could be lost.

Football’s enforced shutdown has left clubs throughout the football pyramid feeling the pinch. Premier League clubs Newcastle, Norwich, Bournemouth and Tottenham have placed staff on furlough, while Burnley warned they could lose as much as £50m if the season does not resume.

League One side Sunderland meanwhile have furloughed all first-team players, contracted academy players and backroom staff, while non-League clubs have spoken of the financial impact of losing hospitality income with the season on hold.

Sky Sports says the Premier League’s top earners are under increasing pressure to take salary cuts, with the Health Secretary Matt Hancock quick to highlight the supposed lack of support being offered by players.

In a statement on Tuesday, Clarke said: “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.

“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.

“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.

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“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.

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“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.

“The FA looks forward to working with all football stakeholders to safeguard the future of our game.”

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‘Finishing season a priority, but not guaranteed’

Clarke has also admitted it may not be possible to finish the 2019/20 season, although completing the campaign remains the aim of the FA in order to resolve promotion, relegation and title winners on merit.

“No one knows how long the lockdown will last and what social distancing measures will endure even when the daily rate of infection is much reduced,” Clarke said. “Our government is rightly cautious as human life is at stake and prudence is our only sensible option.

“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, and we will do as the government directs as the pandemic unfolds.

“Further down the football pyramid, our Leagues have requested that the season is curtailed and that decision rests with the FA Council.”