The Telegraph: Lower tiers say Premier League will be 'let off the hook' if not forced to share profits

The Telegraph: Lower tiers say Premier League will be 'let off the hook' if not forced to share profits

Article by Jeremy Wilson for The Daily Telegraph - published 4 June 2020

Clubs down the football pyramid fear that the Government has "moved on" and let the Premier League "off the hook" despite Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden's suggestion that Project Restart was dependent on sharing the financial rewards through "the entire football family".

Telegraph Sport revealed on Wednesday the sense of despair not just through the English Football League and National League, which have been advanced their usual solidarity payments, but in women's football, semi-professional football and the grassroots game.

All face the potential loss of clubs and no imminent prospect of a return. All also consider themselves part of the "football family", but have heard nothing about how their increasingly desperate financial situations might be helped by the Premier League's Project Restart.

Dowden was asked in parliament on Thursday morning by Damian Collins, the former chair of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, what support there would be for clubs down the pyramid who are facing the immediate prospect of administration. "At the moment, there seems to be no plan either from football or the Government to help them," said Collins.

Dowden replied by offering to meet with Collins and said that the "the most important first step is to get sports going behind closed doors, because that helps to support the revenues". He then said that sports should "look after themselves" but that he would continue to work with the Premier League, the Football Association and the English Football League.

When asked about grassroots football, Dowden said that he was "determined" to make sure "money flows to those clubs" but offered no further detail.

In announcing the return of the Premier League, which is determined to avert a potential £762 million rebate on its £9.2 billion broadcast deal, Dowden said that he had specifically set clubs the challenge of ensuring "that the financial benefits of returning would be shared throughout the entire football family".

An EFL club source has since told Telegraph Sport that the Government appears to have "moved on and let them off the hook". Shadow sports minister Alison McGovern believes that the women's game has been shown a lack of respect after its top two divisions were cancelled, despite estimations that it would have cost only £9 million to complete the season behind closed doors. In Germany, top men's Bundelsiga clubs helped to fund Covid-19 testing so that the women's Bundesliga could continue.

It has also been pointed out to the Government that the solidarity payments which have so far been advanced from the Premier League to EFL and National League clubs were the already contractually-agreed funds. This does not include any new help further down the pyramid, whether for men's, women's or children's teams or leagues.

Including parachute payments, which protect clubs against the consequences of relegation, the Premier League currently keep around 93 per cent of their three-year broadcast deal. Huge sums are then spent on player wages and, having failed to find any uniform agreement on salary cuts, some Premier League clubs themselves are themselves facing significant financial challenges.

In cricket, the England players insisted that their wage cuts went directly to helping the grassroots game. There have also been calls for the Premier League to explore taking out a loan against its future TV income, which could be passed down the pyramid, and used to safeguard the national game.

The Premier League did not comment on whether there would be new money for the wider "football family" but its chief executive, Richard Masters, stressed that they must first restart matches. "Until we have been able to get back playing, until we have a clear plan to start season 2020-21, we are dealing with our own situation," he said.

"At the moment we have made good all our solidarity contributions to the pyramid for 2019-20 and indeed we have forwarded a big chunk of next year's revenue. What we have to get ourselves into is a position where we are sure of the Premier League's financial situation...before we can return to that topic."

Copyright 2019 Damian Collins. All rights reserved

Promoted by Russell Tillson for and on behalf of Damian Collins, both of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association both at 4 West Cliff Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SP

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