https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rick ... -067krxv02
Rick Parry accuses government of victimising EFL clubs amid ‘unfair’ treatment
Martyn Ziegler, Chief Sports Reporter
Wednesday October 28 2020, 3.15pm, The Times
Football clubs are being “victimised” by the government’s “unfair” refusal to provide financial support during the Covid-19 pandemic while providing hundreds of millions to the arts, the chairman of the English Football League has warned ministers in a hard-hitting letter.
The letter from Rick Parry to the culture secretary Oliver Dowden, a copy of which has been seen by The Times, spells out the crisis affecting clubs and questions why they are being “ignored” by a government that has provided a £1.5 billion rescue package for arts. He says fans “will never forgive” the government if their clubs go bust.
Parry writes: “While football grounds in Rochdale, Grimsby, Mansfield and Carlisle might seem an awful long way from Glyndebourne or the Royal Ballet, they are nonetheless equally important parts of our nation’s heritage.
“It must have dawned on you that it is deeply unfair that cultural institutions like these are receiving government hand-outs while also being able to generate revenues by admitting the paying public.”
Parry’s letter, which has been copied to all 72 clubs, says the Premier League may not be able to fund the size of the bailout needed by the EFL. The tone of the letter highlights the EFL’s belief that time has run out for many clubs.
It goes on: “For some reason, football is being regarded as a peculiarly undeserving case and, as a result, many of our clubs have now reached the conclusion that we are at best being ignored by a government that doesn’t understand our national sport and at worst being victimised by it.
“Ultimately, the football public will judge the performance of this Conservative government on how many football clubs remain in business once the pandemic finally subsides. Certainly, those communities that are inextricably linked to their local team will never forgive it if their beloved football clubs are driven into extinction.”
Dowden has previously insisted that the 20 Premier League clubs must support the 72 in the EFL, who say they need £250 million to survive a season without fans. So far the top flight has only offered £20 million to clubs in League One and League Two, plus another £30 million in loans as an emergency fund.
Parry’s letter says: “Discussions with the Premier League continue, however it is clear that top-flight clubs are also feeling the effects of the pandemic, particularly the loss of gate revenue, and it may not be in a position to provide the level of support that is required.
“Therefore, the onus remains on you to remedy the situation rather than thinking of it as ‘job done’. After all, it is the government that is currently preventing fans from going to games not the Premier League.
“EFL clubs, almost all of them the social cornerstone of the towns and cities they bear the names of, stand on the brink of a financial precipice.
“The government’s response to the crisis that is engulfing football is particularly galling when compared with the comparative generosity being extended to other areas of your portfolio — for example, the £1.5 billion funding package to the arts sector alone.
“Yet at the same time, football is told to support itself and its clubs have to play behind closed doors. I am sure you can understand how this disparity in approach must look to football fans in constituencies across the country.”
Parry’s letter calls for “a clear plan”, including getting fans safely back into stadiums as soon as possible and allowing clubs to defer PAYE payments “so that clubs do not continue to haemorrhage cash while playing behind closed doors”.
He adds: “In any event, clubs will soon begin defaulting on these payments and the government would be better off managing this situation rather than having it land on its toes.”