EFL: Future of some Football League clubs beyond Christmas in doubt

A crowd of 862 saw Cambridge beat Fulham U21s in the EFL Trophy on 8 September – the first elite competitive football match to host fans since lockdownSome English Football League clubs will struggle to stay afloat beyond Christmas if there is a delay to the wider return of fans and a financial rescue package is not secured urgently, BBC Sport has been told.Discussions are taking place about what assistance the Premier League might provide, with a request having been lodged for around £200m.Top-flight club owners are thought to have asked for assurances on how the money would be spent, given concerns over it fuelling wage inflation or being used on transfers.The BBC has been told that if money does not start coming in within weeks, either from crowds or financial assistance, then some clubs face an uncertain future. Some sports are bracing themselves for the possibility of the 1 October target being pushed back by a month, given the recent uptick in coronavirus infection rates and concerns over the increased use of the transport network and the public perception of allowing crowds.However, the timings were not discussed at a meeting between major sports and culture secretary Oliver Dowden on Wednesday, which was described as “constructive and productive”.Instead, the sports were given an opportunity to discuss the “serious financial situation” they are facing, and the implications if fans cannot return soon.Currently, pilots are capped at maximum 1,000 capacity, and are not permitted in areas where local lockdowns are in place.Meanwhile, the government is reviewing its plans relating to the return of fans next month and has said it will complete this “rapidly”.A joint statement issued by the governing bodies for football, tennis, horse racing, cricket, rugby league and rugby union said: “We conveyed to the secretary of state the very serious financial situation now facing our sports, clubs and venues and that we believe we can stage events safely. “It is clear that if fans cannot return soon that there will be very serious economic implications across our sporting sector.”Our sports have already demonstrated through staging fixtures behind closed doors, in test events and through the return of recreational sport that we can deliver the very highest standards in safety and best practice.”We will continue to engage with the government in the days ahead and provide any further evidence required. “It is our firm belief that sports fans will be as safe as in other areas of activity currently permitted.”
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