Football League clubs have opened talks about potentially cutting staff after being left “in limbo” as the Government’s furlough scheme draws to an end.
With the current job retention scheme, which allowed staff to be retained on 80 per cent of pay, closing this weekend and clubs unsure whether they are eligible for winter support, the English Football League has warned of an urgent risk.
The Government has stressed that professional football “has the means to support itself” through the Covid-19 pandemic but the Premier League and EFL have so far failed to reach any agreement on a potential bail-out.
“It is inevitable that EFL clubs, like many other businesses, are considering their options as the furlough scheme comes to an end,” said an EFL spokesperson. “Operations stretch way beyond match days and whilst they remain open to play matches; they remain closed in almost every other aspect. Our clubs are in limbo. There remains no clarity from the government that they will even be eligible for the chancellor’s new support schemes and remain in danger of falling through the cracks.
“Football requires emergency assistance or we face the real prospect of our football clubs, the heartbeat of 72 towns and cities across England and Wales, being forced into hibernation and/or worse.”
Rick Parry, the EFL chairman, had advocated “Project Big Picture”, which would have seen the Premier League advance £250 million down the professional pyramid as part of a range of structural reform, but this was roundly rejected by most top-flight clubs. They in turn suggested £50 million in grants to League One and League Two but, with Championship clubs missing out, that was rejected by the EFL.
“As we sit here now, we can’t really see any light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ben Robinson, Burton Albion chairman. “In the spring, we believe our cash flow is going to be severely tested and that’s after taking advantage of all the options available.
“We’ve taken out a substantial loan, which is interest-free for the first 12 months, maximised the furlough scheme, sold a player to Chelsea [goalkeeper Teddy Sharman-Lowe] and had money from our cup game against Aston Villa.”
Mark Palios, the Tranmere owner, said that furlough had helped reduce their losses by about £550,000 but that they had already made 20 staff redundant during the summer. Of the new government scheme, Palios said: “There is a closed scheme and open scheme for businesses and we do not have the details of the closed scheme. We don’t have any paying gates but we are technically opened. We are in this difficult position where we have to employ our major cost-line while we are not allowed to take any revenues in.”
Parry had contrasted football with Glyndebourne Opera House in his letter to the Government, but it responded yesterday by saying that the EFL chair had been “misleading” in suggesting it had so far benefited from the
£1.57 billion recovery fund that was advanced to the arts and culture.