Gary Neville has issued a passionate plea to the government to help secure the future of clubs in the English Football League who are on the brink of collapse because of the “self-interested” Premier League clubs.
The EFL rejected a bailout offer from the Premier League earlier this month that would have seen £50m given to clubs across League One and League Two, which would have consisted of grants and interest-free loans on top of the £27.2m solidarity payments that have already been paid.
The Premier League insists that the offer remains on the table to any club who finds itself in a position where they need to take drastic action to survive, but the EFL has been in unanimous agreement that the Championship also needs a rescue package if the EFL is to be maintained through the coronavirus pandemic.
Neville was particularly critical of the figure that the Premier League offered, with the former Manchester United and England defender labelled the £50m sum “embarrassing” after the 20 top-flight clubs spent £1.2bn in the summer transfer market in the middle of the financial crisis.
And with clubs still in limbo, Neville has called on the government to step in and act to safeguard the future of English professional football. A number of Championship clubs fear the ongoing absence of any matchday revenue with stadiums closed to fans will result in wages being delayed at the end of the month, while numerous owners have raised the prospect of clubs collapsing by the end of the calendar year if support doesn’t arrive.
“I’ve called for many years for the government to intervene”, Neville said on Monday Night Football on Sky Sports.
“I want the game to be looked after more. It’s gonna be a massive challenge. Introducing a private member’s bill in parliament or getting specific government support will be really difficult as they don’t want to get involved in football, (but) they do get involved in energy, broadcasting.
“If it doesn’t intervene now at this point, where clubs are on brink of extinction because of a self-interested group of clubs or entities that won’t hand some money down to them without conditions or putting them into debt or further embargoing their transfers, then I lose faith in the game I love.”
Neville, who owns a share in League Two club Salford City FC, has joined up with seven others including former FA chairman David Bernstein and executive director David Davies to call for urgent reform of the game led by an independent panel that reports to the government.
But he has also been open to action being taken to address the current state of the game which would lead to the ‘Saving the Beautiful Game’ group ending their calls for change, though he has stressed football can not be left to itself to bring about reform.
Neville explained: “If the Project Big Picture (proposal) is reshaped in the next few weeks and looking after fans, non-league, grassroots,FA, and EFL clubs to make them sustainable and maintain the Premier League as the ‘best league in the world'.
“If football can reform itself and prove it can do something it hasn’t done for 30 years, then the eight people in that group would happily fade away. They’re not there for any motive other than to try and address the balance and introduce a fairness to English football.”