Oliver Dowden warned about the stark reality facing clubs without spectators

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Clubs in the EFL and National League are preparing to cease playing and wind up their operations after the return of spectators was delayed, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has been warned.

A letter co-signed by 17 individuals including former Football Association chairmen Greg Dyke and Lord Triesman and pundit Robbie Savage says help is urgently needed to ward off the threat of financial collapse.

The Government announced last week that plans for spectators to return to sports venues from October 1 had been scrapped due to a rise in coronavirus infections.

Dowden has now been told that without some sort of rescue package, a number of clubs will be lost.

“Without any plans being made to rescue clubs, many in the EFL and others in the National League as well, are now actively preparing to make all but essential staff redundant, cease playing, close down their youth academies and community foundations, and put their business into administration,” the letter warns.

“This could lead not only to the failure of many historic community clubs, but the collapse of the national league structure that we have known for over one hundred years. These are decisions that will be made in the coming weeks, with many clubs unable to meet their payroll obligations for next month.”

It pointed out that Premier League clubs too “face swingeing losses from lost ticketing receipts and falling revenues from broadcasting matches”.

The letter referenced the £1.5billion rescue package for the arts sector and added: “We would ask that the Government now make clear what financial support it’s prepared to give before it is too late.”

Dowden said on Sunday that the Premier League needed to “step up to the plate” to help clubs in the EFL and said he was hopeful of a deal being agreed this week.

Top-flight clubs are scheduled to gather on Tuesday for an update following the Government’s decision to press pause on fans returning, the PA news agency understands.

The league has stated English football will lose £100m a month while no fans are admitted to venues. On the one hand the league was working with the Government agency, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, on plans for fans to return on a socially-distanced basis, but is now being told by a different part of Government that those plans have been halted and that it must still help out the pyramid.

The Rugby Players’ Association has joined the calls for the Government to put together a rescue package.

Premiership clubs are facing an extended period without fans in venues
Premiership clubs are facing an extended period without fans in venues (David Davies/PA)

“To continue along this path will cause irrevocable damage to clubs across the Premiership that will impact the wider game and communities they serve in England.

“In the absence of the revenues that live crowds bring to the sport, it is imperative that the game gets significant financial support to help it through this challenging time.”

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