Rochdale CEO warns clubs face £1.5million loss if crowd limits last all season

Rochdale and EFL clubs of a similar size face a loss of £1.5million in revenue if capacity restrictions set to be introduced in October stay in place for the whole season, according to the club’s chief executive.

Dale’s David Bottomley issued the warning on the day fixtures for the 2020-21 EFL campaign were published.

The season will start behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the government set to allow limited crowds to return from October 1.

Rochdale worked with the local safety advisory group to calculate the permitted capacity at the Crown Oil Arena, which has been set at 2,170 in a stadium which can hold 10,249.

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That equates to just over 21 per cent occupancy, something which will put a big dent in Rochdale’s revenues.

“The Covid plans that the government have to allow fans back from October 1, if they were to stay in place until May 8 next year when the season finishes, a club like us are looking at a £1.5m loss in normal revenues,” he told the PA news agency.

“It’s a loss on both crowds coming through the gate and as importantly, if not more, our hospitality income. The executive boxes that hold 12 people can only hold four under the new plan.

“So if someone is paying you £1,000 a year for that seat in that executive box, instead of getting £12,000 we’re going to be getting £4,000.”

Rochdale were one of the League One clubs who favoured cutting the 2019-20 season short.

Tranmere co-owner Nicola Palios, whose club were relegated on the points-per-game basis to decide the final table, asked on Twitter last month: “So it seems the @efl season will start again on 12th September, behind closed doors. So clubs who voted not to play the last 10 games of last season because they could not afford to, can now miraculously afford to start a new one?”

Bottomley said in response: “The Tranmere point about starting the season is a little bit academic. There are going to be some crowds coming in, we’re only playing a limited number of games fully behind closed doors and we’re still having to pay out all the players in full.

“Unless we find a way to pay the players in full and just mothball the entire season we may as well restart to be honest, why would you not restart?”

Bottomley, whose club will travel to face newly-promoted Swindon in their season-opener on September 12, also welcomed the vote to introduce a salary cap of £2.5m in League One for the coming season.

“It sends exactly the right message to the outside world that the football industry is trying to gain greater control of its own expenditure,” he said.

Players’ union the Professional Footballers’ Association has described the cap as “unlawful and unenforceable” and has served notice of arbitration on the EFL.

Bottomley added: “The PFA are going to challenge it legally, you would expect them to do that in some respects. I hardly think it’s restraint of trade – it’s not capping a player’s wages.

“The PFA can have any attitude, but if we don’t have a sensible attitude there will be potentially a lot of clubs in League One and League Two, and below, that won’t survive and that has a detrimental effect on professional football in England.”