A plan to use Premier League cash to help lower league football clubs stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis could be finalised this week, the Culture Secretary said today.
Oliver Dowden said the Premier League ‘needs to start by looking after the football family as a whole’ and that it is having ‘productive conversations’ with the English Football League about how it can help.
Mr Dowden said he is ‘hopeful’ that the two sides will ‘reach a deal this coming week’ on how the top division can help smaller teams to survive.
It comes after the governing bodies of a range of sports hit out at Boris Johnson after the Government announced last week it was scrapping plans to bring back some spectators to sports venues from October 1.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today urged the Premier League to ‘step up to the plate’ and help EFL clubs survive the coronavirus crisis
A surge in coronavirus cases prompted the Government to pause the planned return of socially distanced crowds.
The Premier League is expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss the way forward now that the Government has effectively ruled out any fans attending matches until March.
The EFL says its 72 clubs stand to lose £200million this season without crowds, having already lost £50m last season.
There are growing fears that without crowds some lower league clubs will disappear.
Mr Dowden told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘First of all we need to look to the Premier League.
‘I’ve been in touch with the Premier League a lot over the past few days, they’re working closely with the EFL to see how they can support them.
‘The Prime Minister and I have been clear, the Premier League needs to start by looking after the football family as a whole and indeed they’re having productive conversations and I’m hopeful that they’ll reach a deal this coming week in relation to that.’
The Culture Secretary had earlier told Sky News that ‘nobody could be more disappointed than me’ about the decision not to allow fans to return to stadiums at the start of next month.
‘But I think most people would agree, against this backdrop of rapidly rising cases, now is not the time to do it,’ he said.
‘In terms of our response now, we have said we stand ready to support clubs. They are such an important part of local community and they were there, at the height of the crisis, they had our backs and now it’s time for the government to have their backs but the first thing we need to look to is the Premier League.’
The Government has scrapped plans to bring back crowds to sports venues from October 1. Socially distanced fans are pictured taking part in a pilot during a match between Brighton and Chelsea on August 29
Mr Dowden said he hoped the Premier League will ‘step up to the plate’.
Asked if crowds would return by the end of the season, Mr Dowden replied: ‘I would desperately love that to happen and we keep the situation under constant review.
‘We are also investigating the use of new technology, working with the clubs who have done a fantastic job until now.
‘If it’s all possible of course I would like it to happen, but, in this rapidly moving situation with the virus, we just need to exercise a little bit of caution which is what we’ve done in relation to October 1.’