EFL rescue package needed soon to prevent clubs folding by Christmas

A rescue package for EFL clubs is needed in weeks, not months, otherwise there is a danger one or more of the 72 member clubs could go out of business before Christmas, the PA news agency understands.

Talks between the EFL and the Premier League over a bailout are continuing, with clubs in the former competition facing a £200million hole in their finances if the coronavirus pandemic keeps crowds away for the whole of the 2020-21 season.

But sources involved in the talks say an answer is needed urgently to avoid a financial catastrophe, on the day that Macclesfield – until last month members of the league – were wound up.

Southend have been given a stay of execution
Southend have been given a stay of execution

Sky Bet League Two club Southend have also been granted six weeks by the High Court to settle a debt of £500,000.

The rescue package is the EFL’s major priority at the moment, and it is understood alternatives to a bailout from the Premier League are being looked at.

The EFL has set out what it needs in terms of support, based on lost gate receipts. The Premier League, for its part, is understood to be seeking assurances over how the money will be spent but has been given encouragement by the salary caps in League One and Two as a sign of clubs exercising greater cost controls.

The Premier League released remaining solidarity payments for the 2019-20 season in April, while professional football remained suspended, and is understood to have already advanced half of the money due for 2020-21, with the remaining half set to be paid in January.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has been involved in the talks with the EFL
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has been involved in the talks with the EFL

The EFL was involved in discussions with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden on Wednesday, and set out the consequences of any delay to the planned return of spectators to sports venues by October 1.

Even with fans returning under the guidelines set out by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, which limit capacity at between 25 and 35 per cent, EFL clubs would be in dire trouble without the rescue package.

The government is reviewing the October 1 return due to a spike in coronavirus cases across the country. A delay until the start of November – when more information will be available about the impact of schools and universities returning on case numbers – is a possibility, PA understands.

The EFL accepts some matches may have to be played behind closed doors as a result of local lockdowns, even if crowds are generally allowed to return from October 1.