MPs ‘losing patience’ with leagues over delay in coronavirus rescue package

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MPs say they want to hear about “every meeting, every call and every email” between the Premier League and the EFL over the coronavirus rescue package.

The chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, Conservative MP Julian Knight, says his panel is “losing patience” with the leagues over the time being taken to reach an agreement.

The Government announced a package of funding on Thursday to support sports affected by the loss of matchday revenue over the winter, but the men’s professional game did not feature.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston insists it is the Premier League’s responsibility to help out the EFL, and now Knight has called the failure of the leagues to reach an agreement so far “a fiasco”.

He warned at the end of last week’s DCMS session that the committee would demand updates from the leagues on the progress they were making, and reiterated that call on Friday.

“We are losing patience,” Knight said.

“Fans have waited a long time for a solution that would safeguard their clubs but all they can see is squabbling at the top of the game.

“Football and its followers deserve better. The current fiasco in reaching an agreement isn’t about the lack of money, but lack of leadership.”

Knight continued: “We’re putting the current leaders of the Premier League and the EFL on notice.

“Nothing should be withheld from the committee, and so that fans can see what’s going on, we’ll make these updates public.

“The predecessor DCMS committee called for legislation to bring in an independent system of football licensing and regulation if the game wasn’t able to reform itself. That time may be fast approaching.”

The EFL talked about a “significant step forward” last week in announcing that it was now finalising negotiations over a £50million offer from the Premier League to clubs in Leagues One and Two, generally those hit hardest by the loss of spectator revenue.

That was because the EFL now felt confident that it had assurances from the top flight that support would be offered to Championship clubs as well.

However, it is understood the EFL has concerns over the fact that £30m of the £50m rescue offer is comprised of loans, which would load more debt onto clubs in the third and fourth tiers.

Huddleston said on Thursday that EFL chairman Rick Parry and Premier League chief executive Richard Masters had to find a compromise.

“We are doing everything we can to encourage Rick and Richard to come to a reasonable arrangement,” he said.

“I appeal to Richard and Rick to both compromise and come to reasonable terms.

“Clearly what is currently presented hasn’t been acceptable so something else needs to come (forward) but it is for them to determine the precise dynamics. I think they are both going to have to compromise and I expect them to do so.”

The Premier League’s position is that its offer of assistance to the EFL means no club need go out of business as a result of the pandemic.

The EFL was clearly not expecting to receive any funding from the Government in Thursday’s rescue package, but wants a clear road map on how and when fans can return to stadiums.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Thursday “there is definitely a chance” some supporters could be allowed into venues by Christmas in the lowest-risk areas, but there remains little in the way of detail about how that would work in practice.

Championship side Coventry, meanwhile, hit out at the Government’s decision not to include EFL clubs in the ‘Sport Winter Survival Package’.

In a strongly-worded statement, Sky Blues chief executive Dave Boddy claimed struggling clubs had been denied “a financial lifeline”, accusing the Government of “washing its hands of the crisis that is engulfing the EFL” while trying to “pass the buck to the Premier League”.

Boddy said: “The nation’s sport is football and it is being left to fend for itself, despite it being the most significant sport in this country for its economic, social and community impact and the number of supporters it would normally have going through turnstiles.

“Now when football is in need, it is being abandoned by the Government.”

Boddy added: “This Government needs to take responsibility for football in the bad times as well as the good, and provide support for football now instead of when it is too late for clubs and for the sport.

“EFL clubs’ impact up and down this country is huge and incomparable, and we believe that the Government is now putting the national sport at severe risk.”

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